5x6 (5x6) wrote in linguaphiles,

parsing a sentence

On a Russian-language translators' forum, we had a curious discussion. The question is as follow: In an American text written by a prison psychologist, the author lists situations in which inmates may need psychological help. One of the item on the list is interviewing for "privileged committee seats."

It appears that this clause can be parsed in three different ways, all grammatically acceptable.
1. "interviewing for committee seats, which are privileged compared to not being on such a committee." That is to say, people are interviewing for being members of inmates advisory committees; being a member of such a committee is a privileged position in prison.
2. "interviewing for special seats on the committee, which can be called privileged". For instance, there may be an Advisory Committee of 22 members, including the chair, the vice-chair, the secretary, and the scribe; these four positions are considered "privileged" and interviewing for such positions is especially challenging.
3. There is a typo (or a common mistake), and the author meant "privilege committee seats". This assumes that there is a so-called Privilege Committee advising the management about inmates' privileges", and people are interviewing for seats on this committee.

So my question is, when you first read this sentence, before perusing these three options, what is your immediate understanding? Do you feel that one reading is much more natural than the others? Do you feel they are all about equally likely? Or that there is one that is hardly possible, but the other two are equally acceptable?

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