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Thread: Strange English Contruction

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    Почтенный гражданин xXHoax's Avatar
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    Strange English Contruction

    I was originally going to post this in Russian Grammar, but after looking into it, I got more confused, and also realized it manifests very differently in Russian, which means this is a good topic to "teach".

    I generally have a good grasp on clause links and relative pronouns and the specific alignment of который [match gender of antecedent noun, match case of the clause it is in], however in certain cases in English, the word "which" gets used in a pretty strange way, and from what I can tell it doesn't happen in Russian. I have even seen the construction in Spanish.

    Here are some Russian and English examples of a similar construction to the weird one:

    Construction B

    "Now that Lisa Murkowski has become the Alaska senator, the likes of which we collectively deserve, can we declare a cranky moratorium on ..."

    "the likes of which" as a specific phrase seems to have some bad press, but it does exhibit something similar to the quirk I want to address. (I think people don't like it because it's slightly old fashioned, fancy, and overused)
    In this case "the likes of which" is an alternative to "whose likes...", and the word order is influenced by of's tendency to come after that which it modifies, in both English and Russian to an extent.

    "В нашей сегодняшней подборке — тринадцать быстрых машин, о возможностях которых многие из вас прежде знать не знали."

    Same deal, которых is an alternative to чей [чьих].

    That part makes sense, it's just a natural different use of "of", but what I find strange is this special throne that "the likes", о возможностях have been given. The whose/of-which phrase does something similar to what I actually wanted to bring up, THE EXAMPLES FOR WHICH took me twenty minutes to find and jog my mind.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------V----Actual Part that is strange----- V--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    * marks phrases that I know to be absolutely incorrect, but are just shown for explanation's sake.

    Construction A - The suspect

    "La documentación presentada es correcta, razón por la cual no existirían elementos contrarios para el otorgamiento de lo solicitado." (Note: Spanish would normally not omit its definite article "la" behind "razón", this is strange) (I THINK, this is A1)
    "The presented documentation is correct, by which reason contrary elements wouldn't exist for the granting of the requested." (This English translation is not the right construction for some reason. Let's call this Construction A2)

    * "The presented documentation is correct, the reason by which contrary elements wouldn't exist for the granting of the requested." (This... Seems to be Construction A, but the vocabulary mixed with this particular strange usage of the construction is practically gibberish)

    "Our eyes were not strong; by which reason we were not able to see the pretty fields." (A2ф) (This phrasing is complex, and old, yet not quite dead)

    After twenty minutes of googling and looking at not quite the right things, as I said, I finally got my brain to come up with what I actually wanted to talk about.

    "The phrase does show what I wanted to talk about, the examples for which are hard to find." (A1) (Note: 'the examples' as subject) (Note: "the" before "examples" can feasibly and validly be removed)
    "The phrase does show what I wanted to talk about, the examples for which I found after twenty minutes." ('the examples' as object)

    WHAT IS THIS?
    I can't find any other quotes of anything similar.
    It doesn't sound archaic. It is somewhat formal, just because it uses "which", честно говоря.

    It was very hard to find examples for it because if you change just one slight thing about the surrounding sentence, then it turns into a different kind of phrase, (A2) usually.

    It is as if one clause ends, and the next opens with a floating noun, then a relative pronoun jumps in to retroactively set up framework. Russian word order being better, the underlying gears work more clearly, but for some reason the construction shows up all the time in various languages.

    After searching some more, I realized I had only ever seen construction B in Russian, not A, which leads me to believe this peculiarity might be a result of loss of free word order. [Spanish essentially is in the same boat as English]

    Here I will expand "what", into a more structurally sound "that which", and NOTICE what happens when you compare A1 and A2 in the same environments. English is very ambiguous, so it all only became clear to me once I tried to put both into Russian:

    фраза х) "The phrase shows that, about which I wanted to talk, the examples for which I found after twenty minutes." = "Фраза показывает то, о чём хотел я говорить, примеры для которой/которого я нашёл за минут двадцать."
    фраза з) * "The phrase shows that, about which I wanted to talk, for which examples I found after twenty minutes." =*"Фраза показывает то, о чём хотел я говорить, для которых примеров я нашёл за минут двадцать." [note the English similarity to (A2ф)] (I propose, that the English is unusable for logical problems, not syntactic ones.)

    Notice that the English translations conflict with each other. This may be what causes the strange word order. Below I'll try to unwind that strangeness.

    I don't know if (х) is sayable in Russian, but it correctly demonstrates what is happening in the English.

    As usual, Russian can move clauses around better than English, so let's try this to close the conceptual gap using Russian as a tool. Note: I am fully aware that Russian is not English. Languages are different, but there IS a common thread of structural usage which allows the following buffoonery to be valid.
    This feels like math:

    The phrase shows that, about which I wanted to talk, the examples for which I found after twenty minutes. ( technically this isn't incorrect....... Just sounds incredibly stupid.)
    Фраза показывает то, о чём хотел я говорить, примеры для которой я нашёл за минут двадцать.
    Фраза показывает то, примеры для которой я нашёл за минут двадцать, о чём хотел я говорить.
    Фраза показывает то, для которой примеры я нашёл за минут двадцать, о чём хотел я говорить.
    Фраза показывает то, для которой я нашёл примеры за минут двадцать, о чём хотел я говорить. (Wait a minute... That is totally normal...)

    > который = что,
    >which = that
    Фраза показывает то, для чего я нашёл примеры за минут двадцать, о чём хотел я говорить. (Чего doesn't distinguish gender, and breaks the whole universe... It makes для чего connect to то, rather than фраза. All red sentences exhibit this alternative interpretation)

    > English "that" ( ", что") can't take prepositions before it, instead, they get put in English's strange final position.
    *The phrase shows that, that I found examples for after twenty minutes, that I wanted to talk about. ( * "that, that" )

    > *...that, that... = ...that, which... = ...what...
    > "what" when used in the above sense, doesn't get restated in chains, that is to say:
    ...that, which......, which..., and which... . = ...what..., ..., and...
    The phrase shows what I found examples for after twenty minutes, and wanted to talk about. (this offers the clauses in a weird order for English, so let's flip them back around)
    The phrase shows what I wanted to talk about, and found examples for after twenty minutes.


    The phrase, for which I found the examples after twenty minutes, shows what I wanted to talk about. = The phrase shows what I wanted to talk about, the examples for which I found after twenty minutes.
    The phrase for which I found the examples after twenty minutes, shows what I wanted to talk about. (Without comma, means something completely different.)

    Reasons for which English compensates with this strange word order:
    1) English articles can't be used with demonstratives. See (A2ф), and compare with фраза з, in which the article was forced to be dropped.
    2) So that you know that "which" does not affect "examples", but rather affects "phrase" OR the word "that", depending. Russian does not have a problem with this because "... которой примеры..." SPECIFICALLY does not run into the problem English does. Russians can tell they don't affect each other because of the endings, which English does not have to save us, so instead, we flip the word order.
    3) English has neither case endings nor genders----> Word order Law

    The phrase does show what I wanted to talk about, the examples for which I found after twenty minutes. = Фраза показывает то, о чём я хотел говорить, для которой/которого я нашёл примеры за минут двадцать. [could be either version of который, either meaning]
    The phrase, the examples for which I found after twenty minutes, does show what I wanted to talk about. = Фраза, для которой я нашёл примеры за минут двадцать, показывает то, о чём я хотел говорить.
    The phrase does show what I wanted to talk about, for which I found the examples after twenty minutes. = Фраза показывает то, о чём я хотел говорить, для которого я нашёл примеры за минут двадцать. [Only которого, ~not~ которой]

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    Почтенный гражданин xXHoax's Avatar
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    This construction can be used, among other times, when two nouns are often linked by a preposition

    Answer to/of/for a question -----> ... question, the answer to/of/for which....

    a/the key to a door -----> ... door, a/the key to which....


    "He noticed the door, the key to which had been lost, was still locked."

    There's no other word order for this sentence. Anything else is either incorrect, stilted, or a different meaning.

    As seems commonplace for this construction, you can replace "the key to which" with simply "whose key".


    "He noticed the door was still locked, the key to which had been lost." - seems imbalanced for reasons unknown but is theoretically okay.

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