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I was reading a book where I came across the following sentence. The understanding of the sentence below eludes me, and I was wondering if someone could help me deconstruct it.

The world would perhaps not be made literally unrecognizable by that flooding, but the distinction is ultimately semantic.

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The world would perhaps not be made literally unrecognizable by that flooding, but the distinction is ultimately semantic.

The world would perhaps not be caused to be "unrecognizable" [in the primary meaning of "recognizable", i.e. "incapable of being recognized as the planet Earth"] by that flooding, but the distinction [between being "recognizable or not"] is ultimately one that is found in what the speaker/writer means by "unrecognizable".

The writer is implying that although Earth itself would still be recognised as the planet Earth, (i.e. literally "recognised") everything on earth would have been changed such that the land would not be recognised (i.e. in a more restricted sense) by a person who had seen it before the flood.

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  • thanks very much for the brilliant deconstruction. I am going to find myself revisiting your breakdown before I were to come back with a follow up query.
    – Nosail
    Aug 5, 2020 at 11:57
  • Hi @Greybeard as a follow-up to your explanation, would it be accurate to say that the expression "the distinction is ultimately semantic" could mean that it is open to interpretation of the definition of the parameter on which the distinction rests. For example, would it be right to say that "the distinction between critical and non-critical projects is ultimately semantic," meaning open to the interpretation of how one would definde "critical."
    – Nosail
    Aug 6, 2020 at 4:14
  • The answer to both questions is "Yes".
    – Greybeard
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:02

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