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The following excerpt comes from Siddhartha and puzzles me because, although I understand what the translator is trying to convey, I cannot convince myself that the latter part of the sentence is grammatically correct.

"No, something else in him had died, something that he had long desired should perish."

It is as if the translator is wanting to treat the "something" as the subject of "should perish" but, should that be the case, how can the sentence be correct grammatically when one takes the nested desired-clause into consideration?

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Hello, MlleSim, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

@MlleSim posted:

"No, something else in him had died, something that he had long desired should perish."

This is a structure which is correct + I know it is correct ⇒ This is a structure which I know is correct.

As you can see, we can merge a relative clause (which is correct) with a content clause (that it is correct) by saying "which I know is correct."

Your sentence is similarly formed:

It was something that should perish + He had long desired that it should perish ⇒ It was something that he had long desired should perish.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor
@MlleSim posted:

Could you please direct me to the grammar « topic » which would explain this concept in more detail? I am simply unable to find the topic in my grammar reference.

For example, in Michael Swan's Practical English Usage, Oxford University Press, 2017, page 357, section 237, we can read:

17 somebody I know you 'II like
It is often possible to combine relative clauses with indirect statements and
similar structures, e.g. I know/said/feel/hope/wish (that) . . ., especially in an informal style. Expressions like I know, I said, etc. come after the position of the
relative pronoun.
We’re going to meet somebody (who/that) I know (that) you’ll like.
It's a house (which/that) we feel (that) we might want to buy.
That's the man (who/that) I wish (that) I'd married.
Note that the conjunction (the second that) is usually dropped in this structure; it must be dropped if the relative pronoun is a subject.
This is the woman (who/that) Anna said could show us the church.
This is the woman (who/that) Anna said that could show us the church.
In this structure, people sometimes use whom as a subject pronoun. This is not generally considered correct.
This is a letter from my father, whom we hope will be fully recovered soon.
(More correct:. . . who we hope will be . . .)
Relative clauses can also be combined with if-clauses in sentences like the
following:
I am enclosing an application form, which I should be grateful if you would sign and return.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

I cannot thank you enough for providing me with this passage! I finally found it in my own copy of Swan’s Practical English Usage. The key detail for me was the use of the first relative pronoun as the subject (which then clearly necessitates the dropping of the coordinating conjunction and the subject in the final clause). Thank you again for clarifying this for me and for providing a textual point of reference!

@MlleSim posted:

As a slight aside, I see that you (Mr/Sir Gustavo) are a professor of legal and financial translation in Argentina. Does this mean that you work into Spanish and that English is technically your second language?

Yes, that's right. However, I have to say that I translate both into Spanish (direct translation) and English (inverse translation), the latter being my favorite.

Laudable to say the least... And does this stem principally from extensive practice in the field (to the point that, now, English syntax seems just as natural to you as that of Spanish)?

I also have one more question regarding my original post. Do you know where this construction/structure is treated in either The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston/Pullum) or A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language  (Quirk/Greenbaum)?

@MlleSim posted:

Laudable to say the least...

Thank you. You are very kind.

@MlleSim posted:

And does this stem principally from extensive practice in the field (to the point that, now, English syntax seems just as natural to you as that of Spanish)?

Actually, grammar has always been my favorite subject in all the languages I have studied, and English is no exception. Understanding syntax is, as you know, essential for translation. I love syntactic analysis, but I'm only versed in traditional grammar. David, our moderator, is much more qualified than I am, and masters both traditional and generative grammar, apart from being a highly educated native speaker.

@MlleSim posted:

I also have one more question regarding my original post. Do you know where this construction/structure is treated in either The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston/Pullum) or A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language  (Quirk/Greenbaum)?

I can direct you to A Student's Introduction to English Grammar by Huddleston & Pullum, which on pages 185/186 says:

R element (relativized element) within an embedded clause
It is possible for the R element to be located within a content clause embedded inside the relative clause:
[7] i a. a key [which he says she found] b. a key [(that) he says she found]
     ii a. some boys [who he says saw her] b. some boys [(that) he says saw her]
In [i] R is object of found, and the found clause is a content clause functioning as complement of says: "He says she found R". We understand that he says she found some key, and that's the key the whole NP refers to.
In [ii] R is subject of the embedded saw clause: "He says R saw her". Note that the that is omissible in [iib] : this differs from [6i] above (some friends that saw her) in that the R element is subject not of the relative clause itself but of the content clause embedded within it.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor
@MlleSim posted:

. . . I cannot convince myself that the latter part of the sentence is grammatically correct.

"No, something else in him had died, something that he had long desired should perish."

Hello, MileSim, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

I have enjoyed reading your dialogue with Gustavo in this thread very much, and I share your sentiments about his awesome abilities.

I thought you might enjoy seeing a syntax tree of the noun phrase (NP) "something that he desired should perish." I realize that some of the labels of the phrase nodes may be foreign to you, though you probably recognize VP (verb phrase). The relative clause is the upper CP (complementizer phrase).

The TP (tense phrase) nodes used to be called S (sentence) nodes before advances in generative grammar which made the new designation more desirable. There are, as you can see, two TPs ("sentences") within the noun phrase "something that he had long desired should perish."

The relative pronoun "which" is the subject of the lower TP, within the "that"-clause complement CP of "desired." As Gustavo points out, the "that" needs to be deleted or silenced in syntactic circumstances such as are found in the example we are considering.

In generative grammar, the relative pronoun of a relative clause "originates," in deep structure, in the position where its grammatical function within the clause lies, and here that is as the subject of "should perish." The relative pronoun "moves"/"raises" to the Specifier position of the relative clause CP.

I realize that the presence of both "which" and "that" at the top of the relative clause may seem strange to you guys. In modern generative grammar, "that" is not considered to be a relative pronoun; so when it functions as if it were one, that means that there is a silenced "which" or "who(m)" in play.

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Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

Actually, grammar has always been my favorite subject in all the languages I have studied, and English is no exception. Understanding syntax is, as you know, essential for translation.

Does this imply that you have studied other languages apart from English and Spanish (I only ask because I have seen how much insight other languages - in my case, French and German - offer into the study of my own mother tongue...)?

I can direct you to A Student's Introduction to English Grammar by Huddleston & Pullum, which on pages 185/186 says:

R element (relativized element) within an embedded clause
It is possible for the R element to be located within a content clause embedded inside the relative clause:
[7] i a. a key [which he says she found] b. a key [(that) he says she found]
     ii a. some boys [who he says saw her] b. some boys [(that) he says saw her]
In [i] R is object of found, and the found clause is a content clause functioning as complement of says: "He says she found R". We understand that he says she found some key, and that's the key the whole NP refers to.
In [ii] R is subject of the embedded saw clause: "He says R saw her". Note that the that is omissible in [iib] : this differs from [6i] above (some friends that saw her) in that the R element is subject not of the relative clause itself but of the content clause embedded within it.

I cannot say thank you enough for providing this citation! It was precisely what I needed in order to locate all the applicable sections in both of the references I mentioned (prior to the additional confirmation provided by Robby zhu). In case it is of interest, though, (since I see you do not have access to either of the tomes I asked about), would you like to have them for your own research?

@Robby zhu posted:

Hi, MlleSim.

If I'm not mistaken, you might find what you're looking for here:

1. Sec 17.63 in CGEL by Quirk et al.

2. Chapter 12 sec 7.1 in the other CGEL.

It's just so happens that the grammar books you mentioned have the same acronym.

Indeed, I did not realise this coincidence! Thank you very much, Robby zhu, for these details! I will even add one additional section to No. 2 for future inquisitors:

2. Chapter 11, section 3.1 ("Conditions under which that must or may appear") (or, more specifically, pg. 953).

I thought you might enjoy seeing a syntax tree of the noun phrase (NP) "something that he desired should perish."



David, it is truly a pleasure to have joined this forum! I feel as though I have discovered a gem of a treasure trove...

Your syntax tree proved most helpful, for I must admit that I have never delved into such grammatical analysis until of late. It also served as the starting point for further research and led me to papers discussing this phenomenon (known as the Comp-trace effect or the that-trace effect) in greater detail! Though I am sure that both you and Gustavo are well aware of this effect, I will nevertheless share three links which were particularly edifying:

1. A concise definition of the that-trace effect from the Lexicon of Linguistics: https://lexicon.hum.uu.nl/?lem...ct&lemmacode=148

2. A more detailed overview of the effect (here, listed under its original name, the Comp-trace effect): https://www.ling.upenn.edu/~be...ch11.html#comp-trace

3. And, finally, a paper published by linguists at the University of Zürich discussing the that-trace effect in English, German and Swiss German: https://www.zora.uzh.ch/id/epr..._can_be_repaired.pdf

Again, thank you so much for providing such helpful information through this forum! I have so many questions pertaining to its 'birth' and your own professional backgrounds (both yours and Gustavo's), but I fear such questioning would not be in line with the objective of The Grammar Exchange...

@MlleSim posted:

I will nevertheless share three links which were particularly edifying:

1. A concise definition of the that-trace effect from the Lexicon of Linguistics: https://lexicon.hum.uu.nl/?lem...ct&lemmacode=148

2. A more detailed overview of the effect (here, listed under its original name, the Comp-trace effect): https://www.ling.upenn.edu/~be...ch11.html#comp-trace

3. And, finally, a paper published by linguists at the University of Zürich discussing the that-trace effect in English, German and Swiss German: https://www.zora.uzh.ch/id/epr..._can_be_repaired.pdf

Thank you very much for sharing that material. Your gesture is highly appreciated.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

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