Let me ask a tricky Question.

Each sentence below has what clause.

Can you tell me which sentence is "Relative Clauses," or which one is "Indirect Questions"? And if you can, can you tell me WHY?

① This shows what Earth would look like from outer space.

② But first, a genetic map of an animal may show what makes us human beings.

③ Nanotechnology simulations show what experiments miss.

④ New Image Sensor will Show what the Eyes See, and a Camera Cannot.

⑤ 400 Ways to Show What You Know.

⑥ A Glass of Wine Helps Show What Buyers Want.

1 2 3
Hi,

It's better if you try first.Emotion: smile

Clive
How about

#1&2, indirect questions

#3-6, Relative Clauses

But I'm not sure.
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Hi,

Can you tell me which sentence has "Relative Clauses," or which one has "Indirect Questions"? And if you can, can you tell me WHY?

I don't see any of these as relative clauses. They are noun clauses.

eg noun clause I read what he wrote.
eg relative clause I read the letter which he wrote. Here, which he wrote is relative (ie relates to) the noun 'letter'.

I don't see any indirect questions, either.

eg direct question What did he write?

eg indirect question I asked what he had written.

Best wishes, Clive
CliveI don't see any of these as relative clauses. They are noun clauses.

eg noun clause I read what he wrote.
eg relative clause I read the letter which he wrote. Here, which he wrote is relative (ie relates to) the noun 'letter'.

I don't see any indirect questions, either.
Hi Clive

This is an interesting thread. All maner of terms are used to describe clauses - and I am not saying your terms are wrong. However, what is very commonly considered a relative pronoun which includes the antecedent. The following quotation is from Otto Jespersen's Essentials of English Grammar:

"33.6 Though the relative and interrogative pronouns and adverbs beginning with wh are identical in form, it is possible in most cases to tell whether a clause is relative or interrogative. What is relative in 'I insist on paying what it has cost,' but interrogative in 'I insist on knowing what it has cost.'"

Jespersen doesn't use the term "noun clause" at all. Of course that doesn't mean "noun clause" is an incorrect term, it just proves there are many ways to describe language. In fact, I don't think I have ever read a grammar book that uses the term "noun clause."Emotion: smile

To me, all of the original poster's what-clauses are relative clauses. No. 5 isn't a sentence, though, as it has no main clause; in other words, the part preceding what has no subject and finite verb.

Cheers
CB
Hi CB,

Yes, I agree that it's a question of definitions. That's why I put the personal note in I don't see any of these as relative clauses.Emotion: smile

Let's explore this for a moment. Obviously, a relative clause should relate to something. If the antecedent is specified, everything is clear. If it's not, then it seems to me me that it can get trickier to use the term 'relative clause'. Would you call this a relative clause? I don't know where the pen is. What would you say it relates to?

Best wishes, Clive
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CliveWould you call this a relative clause? I don't know where the pen is. What would you say it relates to?
Hi Clive

I learned my grammatical terminology as a schoolboy and as far as I can remember most of the terms I learned were applicable to all the languages I studied. There were/are exceptions, of course. There is no gerund in Finnish and Swedish, for example. Maybe the writers of grammar books deliberately wanted to make grammar easier for us that way.Emotion: smile

As I read EnglishForward I frequently see grammatical terms I have never seen anywhere, and I don't have a clue as to what they really mean even though I think I know English grammar reasonably well. I am not saying my terms are better or more correct than the ones I don't know and use. Differences in terminology may result in misunderstandings, though. I suppose there's nothing we can do about that.

As for your sentence, in my grammar the clause in bold is an indirect question, not a relative clause. Where isn't a relative pronoun in my English, what is. By the way, the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary agrees with me on defining what as a relative pronoun in some contexts:

"8. (used relatively to indicate that which): I will send what was promised."

Cheers
CB
Hi CB,

I share many of the basic opinions you have expressed.

I, too, learned my grammar as a schoolboy. I think that in many ways, we spend the rest of our lives as 'prisoners' of what we originally learned.

As you do, and although I teach English for a living, I often see grammatical terminology and grammar rules on this Forum that I have not encountered before and often that I do not understand. Sometimes I explore them on the internet, while other times I just try to figure out what people are talking about. In my opinion, a lot of English learners have a much better theoretical knowledge of English than do native speakers. I sometimes find that in my classroom, too.

This encountering of new ideas and points of view is one of the reasons I enjoy participating in the Forum.

The bottom line, of course, is that any of these systems is OK as long as it provides a tool that someone finds useful in learning to speak good English.

Would you call this a relative clause? I don't know where the pen is. What would you say it relates to?

When I asked this, I thought you might reply that it relates to the term or idea of 'a location'. You surprised me by answering in my grammar the clause in bold is an indirect question, not a relative clause. I don't see it as any kind of question at all. Would you also see I know where the pen is as an indirect question? If not, then what would you call it and what would it relate to?

I learned a grammar that includes categorizing clauses as noun clauses, adverbial clauses and adjectival clauses. That seems helpful to me, because it allows me to say things like this. In the sentence Mary likes cake, you can replace 'cake' by another noun, by a gerund or by a noun clause. In other words, you can use a noun-equivalent as the object. If I just talk about relative clauses, I can't say this so simply, because some kinds of relative clauses can fit as objects and others can't. eg I can't say Mary likes which is chocolate-flavoured. So, I assume that there is some way to differentiate between types of relative clauses in that style of grammar?

What do you think?Emotion: smile

I will be away for the next 5 days, so it may take some time for me to reply to you again.

Best wishes, Clive
"33.6 Though the relative and interrogative pronouns and adverbs beginning with wh are identical in form, it is possible in most cases to tell whether a clause is relative or interrogative. What is relative in 'I insist on paying what it has cost,' but interrogative in 'I insist on knowing what it has cost.'"
Either Jespersen wrote this in a moment of madness, or he possesses some clairvoyant power that leaves me in the dust. More on this later, but first:

I like Huddleston's term. He calls these what structures the fused relative constuction. Construction, not clause. And he's quite clear that he doesn't like the word clause for these.

Example:
I paid what it cost.
The paraphrase is
I paid that which it cost.

And only the underlined part is a (relative) clause. what it cost is the fused relative construction: it is itself a Noun Phrase (containing a sentence S) (in the sense given in Transformational Grammar) (I think this is what Clive is calling a noun clause, by the way), and it features the antecedent that fused to the relative pronoun which to form what (= that which).
______

As for the claim that it is usually possible to tell which of these are relative and which interrogative, even when the words that compose them are identical ( !!! ), I cannot agree. Of course, unlike Huddleston, Jespersen calls the whole structure -- including the what -- a relative clause (or an interrogative clause, depending on some ill-defined rules of context). So for Jespersen, one must appeal to semantics (and I'm supposing this means the verb) to disambiguate between 'relative' clauses of this type (fused relative constructions) and 'interrogative' clauses of this type. If it is the verb that makes the difference between the relative type and the interrogative type, then Jespersen thinks that the verb pay for takes a relative and know takes an interrogative.

Now note that all the examples given by the original poster have the verb show. What would Jespersen do here? Would he say that show takes a relative and say all examples are of relative clauses (i.e., Huddleston's fused relative construction)? Or would he say that show takes an interrogative and say all examples are of interrogative clauses?

Or -- and this gets very complicated -- would he say that he does not base his decision on the verb itself at all -- and so some of these are relative clauses and others are interrogatives? If so, what is the basis of such decisions? And how would he have decided?

I'm inclined to think that it is impossible to base the decision on anything syntactic, because the constituent words are identical. One can only make an arbitrary ruling on which verbs take relatives and which take interrogatives, and I wonder if there can be any really good reason for making such arbitrary rulings.

I'm inclined to say that all the original examples are fused relative constructions AND embedded interrogative clauses. (And that if there is some complicated way to disambiguate the two, it is probably not worth the trouble to try!)

CJ
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