I would like to know the target of the word "not" in the following sentence.

The problem is that Britons were never given a chance to vote on whether they wanted the CCTV cameras set up or not.

I wonder which of the following is a correct interpretation:

  1. whether they wanted the CCTV cameras set up or (they did not want the CCTV cameras set up)
  2. whether they wanted the CCTV cameras set up or (not set up)

It is ambiguous - though there is hardly any difference in meaning, so it doesn't matter in practice.

Thinking about it, I find it very difficult to decide which interpretation I would favour. I think it would be the matrix verb (so or did not want) but I am not sure.

  • They may have indeed wanted the CCTV cameras - but not set up - rather simply delivered in their boxes so that set-up could be performed later - very different meanings. – Brad Dec 24 '13 at 16:59
  • Yes @Brad, they could. And the Flying Spaghetti Monster could have gone round the world delivering presents last night. What people discussing language often seem to ignore is that pragmatics are as much a part of language as grammar. – Colin Fine Dec 25 '13 at 19:58

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