Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Which is correct? This is important because it's the closing sentence of my entire thesis, so I must get it grammatical.

1) '' The motivation for many of these suggestions is the detail that can be achieved by approaching the question from the level of individual constituents.''

2) '' The motivation for many of these suggestions is the detail that can be achieved by approaching the question on the level of individual constituents.''

share|improve this question
2  
They're both grammatical. Only the semantics are in question. I'd say either from or at (not on). I might even change the wording to say "from the perspective of individual constituents". But that's without my knowing anything else about your thesis, so it may not be a good suggestion. "Level" suggests class distinctions, and we know that there's none o'that in the USA. –  user21497 Nov 10 '12 at 14:53
    
You're so good! –  Jase Nov 10 '12 at 14:59
1  
Are you sure you mean individual constituents instead of from the level of the individual constituent? The singular construction is often used to imply the group, and it allows the singular level to be used without any ambiguity: no one will be confused whether you are trying to imply that all constituents share a single level. –  Robusto Nov 10 '12 at 15:08
    
@Robusto All constituents do share a singular level. Given this, does there still exist a problem? –  Jase Nov 10 '12 at 15:17
    
Seems to me that "{from/at} the level of the individual constituents" implies a single level for all, but that "{from/at} the levels of the individual constituents" would be problematic because it implies many different levels. –  user21497 Nov 10 '12 at 15:27

1 Answer 1

  1. This is a spatial metaphor: neither from nor on sorts very felicitously with approach. It is the “constituents” which occupy a particular “level”; with approach what you are proposing is to move from your ‘position’ to the ‘position’ occupied by the question by way of the [level of] individual constituents.

  2. Unless you are an Aristotelian speaking of “final cause”, I don’t think you can speak of detail as the motivation for your suggestions; motivation generally denotes efficient cause. What motivates your suggestions is not the detail but the desire to achieve that detail.

I’d rewrite something like this:

“Many of these suggestions are prompted by the prospect of achieving a much higher level of detail through approaching the general question by way of its individual constituents.”

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.