EDIT/NOTE: This phrase is from a legal document, so rules of plain language / literal interpretation are assumed to apply, so please refrain from assuming what you believe was intended by the writer. THIS IS NOT A LEGAL QUESTION, but one about proper grammatical logic. It would be highly appreciated if you referenced English grammar rules to support your point.
I've been debating with someone over the correct grammatical interpretation of the following sentence:
Structure must not exceed 12 feet by 12 feet base and 12 feet in height.
I am fairly convinced this means the structure must exceed both base and height dimensions in order to fail to meet the requirement. However they argue if the structure exceeds either base or height dimensions, then it will fail to meet the requirement.
- Here are the two ways this could be logically interpreted, both returning opposite results:
H = 10, B = 20
not (H > 12 and B > 12) ------> True
not H > 12 and not B > 12 ------> False
I believe my interpretation is correct since there is only a single "not exceed", as well as no commas in the sentence. Whereas if the sentence said "not exceed ... and not exceed..", then that would follow the second logic:
Structure must not exceed (12 feet by 12 feet base and 12 feet in height) ------> True
Structure must (not exceed 12 feet by 12 feet base) and (not exceed 12 feet in height) ------> False
Furthermore, if the sentence used an "or" instead of "and", then that would mean that exceeding either constraint would result in failure to meet the requirement:
Structure must not exceed 12 feet by 12 feet base or 12 feet in height.