For a clause of the type [all but a few X] [Y], there seem to be two possible interpretations. The first one is "Y is the case for all things/people/places, except for a few X," as in the following quotations:
- Moammer Gadhafi says his regime is still alive in Libya and is calling his opponents takeover of all but a few pockets of the country a charade.
- Stating the obvious to all but a few Supreme Court Justices, quoting an earlier decision, Scalia wrote, " We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. "
- After launch, the spacecraft began its voyage through the void of space and was promptly forgotten by all but a few scientists and space enthusiasts.
The second one is "Y is the case for all X, except for a few of X," as in the following quotations:
- All but a few entry-level, low-cost models with screen sizes greater than 40 inches have the 1920-by-1080 resolution of " full HD " (1080p).
- Vazquez outperformed all but a few NL starters.
- But Ismail never lets his political convictions get in the way of his business. He supplies most government agencies and all but a few foreign embassies in Washington.
What exactly is the semantic difference between the two variants, and how can their occurrence be predicted?