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- The book was written in 1955, since when the education system has witnessed great changes.

What does "when" refer to? Is it the year 1955, or the exact moment the book was written? Or maybe both interpretations are about the same and there is no need to distinguish one from the other.

Thanks in advance.

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Hi, Robby zhu,

@Robby zhu posted:


- The book was written in 1955, since when the education system has witnessed great changes.

Where have you taken that sentence from? (It sounds awkward). Remember guidelines (4) and (5), to which there is a link in the toolbar at the top.

This would sound more natural:

- The book was written in 1955, and since then the education system has witnessed great changes.

@Robby zhu posted:


What does "when" refer to? Is it the year 1955, or the exact moment the book was written? Or maybe both interpretations are about the same and there is no need to distinguish one from the other.

It refers to the time, or the year, when the book was written. It does not make sense to think of the exact moment when the book was written as the point in time when the educational system started to change.

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

Where have you taken that sentence from? (It sounds awkward). Remember guidelines (4) and (5), to which there is a link in the toolbar at the top.



I agree with Gustavo that it sounds awkward. I find it totally ungrammatical.



This would sound more natural:

- The book was written in 1955, and since then the education system has witnessed great changes.



Yes, that is much better. Robby zhu can also say:

  • The book was written in 1955, since which time the education system has witnessed great changes.

When "since" is complemented by a "when"-clause, the "when"-clause needs to be a free relative clause, as in the following example:

  • He hadn't seen her since 1955, since when Eisenhower was president.

Normally, of course, "since when" just occurs in questions:

  • Since when has the education system witnessed such great changes?

Robby zhu can also say:

  • The book was written in 1955, since which time the education system has witnessed great changes.

When "since" is complemented by a "when"-clause, the "when"-clause needs to be a free relative clause, as in the following example:

  • He hadn't seen her since 1955, since when Eisenhower was president.

Normally, of course, "since when" just occurs in questions:

  • Since when has the education system witnessed such great changes?

Excellent points, David!

Thanks for the reply, Gustavo, David.

I always thought these two phrases were readily interchangeable:

Sense when=since which time

But there seems to be a BE/AE disparity on this issue. https://forum.wordreference.co...since-which.2351750/

The sample sentence is from a grammar book, which is used to demonstrate the use of "since when/ since which time". The book was not written by native speakers, though. I think it's because to use "since when" as a relative word is fine in BE that the book deems it as grammatical( for ESL).

To focus on the reference issue, I came up with another sentence, a more acceptable one with "since which time":

The steam engine was invented in 17th century, since which time it has changed the world a lot.

If this sentence works, I think that, by "since which time", the speaker intends to mean the time of the invention, not 17th century, right? So can I guess "which time" in "since which time" always refers to the time of the action expressed in main clauses, rather than the time denoted by the adverbial, i.e. 17th century and the year 1955 (in the original post)?

Last edited by Robby zhu
@Robby zhu posted:

I always thought these two phrases we're readily interchangeable:

Sense when=since which time



As you can see, for an large number of speakers, they are not interchangeable in the context of nonrestrictive relative clauses, in which context these speakers, I included, find "since when" not just awkward but ungrammatical.

@Robby zhu posted:


But there seems to be a BE/AE disparity on this issue. https://forum.wordreference.co...since-which.2351750/

Yes, BrE speakers and AmE speakers do seem rather divided in their grammaticality judgments in this area. I wonder what percentage of British speakers find the construction tolerable. I even found an example in CGEL:

Quote:

[52] iii. He left college in 1982i, since wheni I've only seen him twice.

- The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston and Pullum, 2002), p. 1051

I also find that example ungrammatical, which means that I disagree with the grammaticality judgment of two grammar giants on this particular issue. Be that as it may, I would be lying if I said that I found it grammatical.

In justification of my grammaticality judgment, I would cite that "when" has the status of a prepositional phrase, not a noun phrase, in relative clauses and interrogative clauses. Compare:

  • He left college in 1982, when Ronald Regan was president.
    ("when" = "in 1982")

While I'm being so bold, I'll also say I find the example from Charles Dickens ungrammatical: "There has been a time since when I have wondered whether . . ." I think "when" should (not just can) be changed to "which."

@Robby zhu posted:


To focus on the reference issue, I came up with another sentence, a more acceptable one with "since which time":

The steam engine was was invented in 17th century, since which time it has changed the world a lot.

If this sentence works, I think that, by "since which time", the speaker intends to mean the time of the invention, not 17th century, right? So can I guess "which time" in "since which time" always refers to the time of the action expressed in main clauses, rather than the time denoted by the adverbial, i.e. 17th century and the year 1955 (in the original post)?

No. In your example, "since which time" does not refer to the time of the invention; it refers to the 17th century ("since which time" = "since the 17th century").

Last edited by David, Moderator

No. In your example, "since which time" does not refer to the time of the invention; it refers to the 17th century ("since which time" = "since the 17th century").

@Robby zhu posted:


The steam engine was invented in 17th century, since which time it has changed the world a lot.



I'm confused.

I think of it this way:If I paraphrase it as:

The steam engine was invented in 17th century; and since then it has changed the world a lot. ("then" being the counterpart of "which time")

Doesn't "then"( thus "which time") refer to the time of the invention, because " 17th century" doesn't have to be in the clause, "...was invented by James Watt, and since then..."?

Last edited by Robby zhu
@Robby zhu posted:


The steam engine was invented in 17th century, since which time it has changed the world a lot.

@Robby zhu posted:

I think of it this way:If I paraphrase it as:

The steam engine was invented in 17th century; and since then it has changed the world a lot. ("then" being the counterpart of "which time")

"Then" is a pro-form whose antecedent in your paraphrase is clearly "the 17th century" ("the" is needed). It is illogical to suppose that "then" refers to the time of "was invented" when there is a time expression occurring right before "then"!

"Then" would, however, refer to the time of "was invented" in this somewhat awkward variation:

  • The steam engine was invented, and, since then, the world has changed a lot.

In that variation, "since then" means "since the steam engine was invented," i.e., sincethe time that the steam engine was invented. But that does not work like your paraphrase. In your paraphrase, "then" clearly refers to "the 17th century."

@Robby zhu posted:


Doesn't "then"( thus "which time") refer to the time of the invention, because " 17th century" doesn't have to be in the clause, "...was invented by James Watt, and since then..."?

It doesn't matter that the sentence could be written without "in the 17th century"! If you had written it that way, we would indeed have needed to suppose that "since which time" referred to the time of the invention, for there would have been no time expression that "which time" could take as its antecedent.

But you didn't write the sentence that way. You wrote it with the time expression "in the 17th century." And you followed that time expression with "since which time." It is silly to suppose that "which time" in "since which time" refers to any other time than the 17th century. It's amazing to me that you could even think that it might refer to a different time.


Returning briefly to my critique of "since when" in your original example, somebody in the thread to which you linked tried to make a relevant point regarding the flawed syntax of that construction (Huddleston and Pullum's implied endorsement of it notwithstanding) but did so in a weak way.

The point that that person was trying to make is that, if that type of thing works with "when," it should also work with "where," and it clearly doesn't. That is, if one tries to write a sentence like "We drove to Los Angeles, from where we proceeded to San Francisco the following day," the sentence will work no better. Contrast:

  • We drove to Los Angeles, from which city we proceeded to San Francisco the following day.

The syntactic point involved here is that "when" and "where," when used as so-called relative adverbs in relative clauses, have the syntactic status of prepositional phrases, not noun phrases. "Where" can no more refer to "Los Angeles" (an NP) in my example than "when" can refer to "1955" (another NP) in your example.

But, astonishingly, some British speakers are OK with it. This is truly a pity. Notice that when the shift is made to "since which time" and "from which city," the object of the preposition in each case is a noun phrase. That is, in those phrases, "which time" and "which city" are each noun phrases, in which "which" functions as a determiner.

Last edited by David, Moderator


But you didn't write the sentence that way. You wrote it with the time expression "in the 17th century." And you followed that time expression with "since which time." It is silly to suppose that "which time" in "since which time" refers to any other time than the 17th century. It's amazing to me that you could even think that it might refer to a different time.




This is the part that I didn't know.  I always considered the fact that the time expression is not obligatory in that construction as indicating that "which time" refers to something else, something that could be found in any cases, which, unfortunately, turned out to be untrue.

Last edited by Robby zhu

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