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I found this statement on a newspaper that is the subject of a recent controversy:

"no guarantee or loan shall be given or raised by the Government except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs"

There are two possible interpretations:

"(no guarantee shall be given) or (no loan shall be raised) by the Government except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs"

OR

(no guarantee or loan) shall be (given or raised) by the Government except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs"

I am confused. Which should be the correct interpretation. I am looking for answers that provide references, not personal opinions. Thanks.

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1  
I'm just going to say that--(imo)--your second way of interpretation seems like the correct way. (It was what I originally thought when I read the first part before seeing your interpretations.) –  Souta Oct 23 '12 at 3:21
    
Yes, your second option is correct- the ORs merely are used to rephrase or restate the intention of the author or his agency. –  Jim Oct 23 '12 at 3:42

1 Answer 1

Since “guarantees” are not ordinarily “raised” (except in cases where they are increased) and “loans” are not “given” (if you “give” it, it's not a loan) your first interpretation is closest. What the draftsman almost certainly means is:

No guarantee shall be given by the Government except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs,
AND
no loan shall be raised by the Government except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs.

(Note, by the way, that “any” here is a mistake for “some”, and it really wants a few more words.)

But he doesn't want to repeat that long string “by the ... concurs”; so he tries to fudge his way through by using the “No X or Y” construction; and he ends up with an awkward sentence which says what your second interpretation admirably describes.

It probably doesn't much matter; but it's slovenly.

I'm afraid I can't give you any references—I never owned the manuals I worked with—but thirty years ago I spent three years drafting pleadings and working with my principal, an arbitrator, to figure out just how to interpret bad legal drafting in order to reach a decision; so I know a little bit about it.

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+1 Not only the interpretation is correct, it's not even necessary to go to that length. It is a commonly used structure in formal writing, esp., legalese, to use "respective" grouping as this. The order in which the first list appears applies one-to-one in the succeeding list(s). –  Kris Oct 23 '12 at 5:12
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Hmm, you are addressing this from an entirely different perspective. Let me see if someone can address the grouping rules that @Kris mentioned which I am also interested to find out :) –  Question Overflow Oct 23 '12 at 7:23
    
@QuestionOverflow I think I'm only looking at it from a simpler and more 'natural' perspective, that should be familiar to most regular readers. –  Kris Oct 23 '12 at 7:47
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My only issue with this answer (which I have upvoted) is the opinion that the usage in this instance is slovenly. As @Kris mentioned, this is a structure found in diverse types of formal writing (including poetry). I find legal/legislative documents which use these forms quite appealing. This particular sentence isn't on a par with the declaration of Independence, but it is elegant enough. –  itsbruce Oct 23 '12 at 9:05
    
@ltsbruce Elegance is not the same thing as clarity. I invite you to consider the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. –  StoneyB Oct 23 '12 at 12:01

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