An alleged burglar was left with a broken nose, jaw and ribs after US rapper-actor LL Cool J confronted the intruder in the kitchen of his Los Angeles home, prosecutors said Thursday.

In the above sentence, is the use of the adjective broken correct or should the sentence have been framed better to convey that the nose, jaw, and ribs were all broken?

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    The sentence is fine as-is, especially in its context. I wouldn't even consider interpreting it as equal to "was left with a jaw, ribs, and a broken nose." (Had the burglar got away with a broken watch, laptop, and vase, though, that might be a different matter altogether.) – J.R. Aug 24 '12 at 9:45
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    @J.R. You address the issue. Why not post as answer? – bib Aug 24 '12 at 12:29
  • This is emphatically not general reference (exactly what dictionary would you use, and what would you look up in it?) This is a question which would never occur to a native speaker, because we just know that the adjective is distributive -- in this particular case. As @J.R.'s "broken watch, laptop, and vase" example shows, however, there's more to the story than that. – Marthaª Aug 25 '12 at 14:37

I can understand why the question was asked - where is the link between the broken and the rest of the list?

There is more to a sentence than syntax; it is also an act of communication. When we communicate, we usually believe we are making sense etc - the Co-operative Principle and all that. There is not much point in communicating otherwise. In this case, saying the alleged burglar had ribs and a jaw is hardly news, and unless the story is leaving out something very interesting he had them before he entered the house and nothing Mr LL Cool J did left him with them.

In short, the story makes sense, and succeeds as an act of communication, only if the nose, jaw, and ribs were all intact when the alleged burglar entered, but were broken when he left.

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