No question
Posted: 29 May 2007 05:23 AM   [ Ignore ]
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From Ghost Story by Peter Straub:

Edward was on the floor, both hands clutched to his chest and his knees drawn up. His face was terrible. Ricky stepped back and nearly fell over the chair that John Jaffrey had overturned. There was no question that Edward was still alive - he did not know how he knew it, but he knew - yet he asked, “Did you try to feel his pulse?”
“He doesn’t have a pulse. He’s gone.”

Now I would read the phrase, There was no question that Edward was still alive as meaning that Edward was still alive. If I had wanted to express the author’s meaning, I would have written, There was no question that Edward was dead.

How would others take it?

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Posted: 29 May 2007 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I read it the same way you did; in fact, it didn’t occur to me there could be another reading until you brought it up.  (I assumed Edward was in a near-death state and would sit up in his coffin or something.)

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Posted: 29 May 2007 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yup, I read it exactly as languagehat did.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Perhaps an idiosyncrasy of Straub’s then, or a New Englandism (he hails from Massachussetts, I believe). Or plain old error!

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Posted: 29 May 2007 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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If I thought that Edward was dead, I’d write There was no question of Edward (still) being alive, or, if I were feeling particularly Fowler-ish There was no question of Edward’s (still) being alive.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yep, I read it that Edward was still alive too, as for Syntinen’s version that would at least make me wonder which reading was intended.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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That’s interesting, flynn. To me, ”there was no question of [something being so]” means explicitly that it is out of the question. (”Kommt nicht in Frage!") Not to everyone, evidently.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 29 May 2007 09:08 AM

That’s interesting, flynn. To me, ”there was no question of [something being so]” means explicitly that it is out of the question. (”Kommt nicht in Frage!") Not to everyone, evidently.

Not to me either. There was no question of something being so means it is so, without question.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I have to agree with Syntinen.  Is this a leftpond /rightpond divide?

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Posted: 29 May 2007 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The text quoted by the OP says “there was no question that Edward was still alive”. Syntinen laulu and Happydog both give their interpretations of “there was no question of Edward’s still being alive”, which is a less ambiguous sentence, but NOT the one the OP asked about.
The sentence quoted by the OP is so shoddily written as to leave its meaning in doubt. The closer one looks at it, the less sense it makes.

“Is Edward still alive?”
“No question”.
“Yes, there is a question! Is Edward still alive?”
“Well, he was when this argument started, but I think he’s just kicked the bucket”.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I read it as the OP did, that is, I was surprised to find that poor Edward was actually late. I’m from NZ, so I don’t know how that data point would fit into a “Left/Right pond” analysis.

I wonder whether the reason Syntinen’s alternative phrasing is (potentially) more ambiguous is because the complement clause ("Edward(’s) being alive") is non-finite. In the original sentence, the complement clause “that Edward was still alive” has a finite indicative verb, and here we (nearly) all are, reading it as reporting a statement of fact. Which makes perfect sense, wouldn’t you agree?

Edit: I see that lionello considers Syntinen’s version less ambiguous, and must register my disagreement. For me, the original unambiguously means that Edward is still alive, so it is incorrect in the quoted context. In the absence of context, I think I would interpret Syntinen’s version as meaning he’s dead, but, if the context suggested he were alive I wouldn’t consider it incorrect.

[ Edited: 29 May 2007 06:41 PM by nomis ]
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Posted: 29 May 2007 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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the complement clause “that Edward was still alive” has a finite indicative verb, and here we (nearly) all are, reading it as reporting a statement of fact. Which makes perfect sense, wouldn’t you agree?

Yes, the indicative statement is “Edwards was still alive.” Also the phrase “no question” can be replaced with equivalent terms doubtless or unquestionably in slightly different constructions, which in my view make it unambiguous that Edwards was alive. “There was no question that Edwards was dead” makes the opposite case unambiguous.

Syntinen’s “There was no question of Edward (still) being alive” sounds unambigous to me. Possibly because “no question of” does generally mean, as she indicates, “out of the question” or “no possibility of”. So the crux may be “no question that” versus “no question of” (or various other alternatives). In any case the phrase in the OP has a kind of slushy quality, somewhere between ice, snow, and water.

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Posted: 30 May 2007 01:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I too understood that Edward was alive. Would it help to change the ‘that’ by ‘if’? It would work for me, but hey, that’s me…

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