Is this question ambiguous?

The following multiple-choice question was asked in an exam:

Which one is the internal storage device that performs better than its predecessor with spinning disks inside?

  • HDD
  • SSD
  • USB flash drive
  • RAM

I wonder if the question is ambiguous in regards to what with spinning disks inside modifies in it.

Edit: As Prof. Shor had assumed, my main concern here really is whether with spinning disks inside can be thought of as a modifier to what is being asked, and not to the predecessor; ultimately making HDD the answer.


Grammatically it seems to be ambiguous. “with spinning disks inside” could modify “internal storage device”, “performs better”, or “predecessor”.

However, to someone at all familiar with the devices (the presumed audience for the question), the first two interpretations make little sense. Only one of the listed devices has spinning disks inside, but those interpretations seem to assume that they all do. And if a device can’t have spinning disks inside, it’s not reasonable to ask if it performs better with spinning disks inside.

The last interpretation does make sense. All the devices have predecessors, and some of those predecessors have spinning disks inside. It’s reasonable then to ask which one performs better.

So by process of elimination, only the last interpretation is likely. Also, it’s generally common to resolve this ambiguity by choosing the closest preceding phrase for which the prepositional phrase is applicable.

Source : Link , Question Author : Utkan Gezer , Answer Author : Barmar

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