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Hello, everyone,

THAT’S MY STORY AND I’M STICKING WITH IT
People interpret facts to mean what their story tells them they mean. If someone has a story that life is hard, they will interpret someone else’s happiness as delusional, fake, or inappropriate. If a veteran salesman embraces the story that savvy manipulation is the only path to success, he may interpret the success of a young salesman who believes honesty is the best policy as “beginner’s luck.”

* source; https://books.google.co.kr/books?id=vpmIDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT56&lpg=PT56&dq=%22what+their+story+tells+th...

I can't understand the structure of above 1st sentence especially due to the usage of relative what, causing me not to be able to interpret it correctly. Thus, your kind advice to rewrite above would be much appreciated.

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deepcosmos what their story tells them they mean.

That is a content or noun clause. These clauses function as nouns do. They can be the complement of a verb (and subject of a sentence.

Your example noun clause has another noun clause embedded in it.

Here is are two good references:

https://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/noun_clauses.htm

https://www.albert.io/blog/noun-clauses/

Comments  

"What" means "that which" there. "People interpret facts to mean that (meaning) which their story tells them (that) they mean."

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 AlpheccaStars's reply was promoted to an answer.
AlpheccaStars
deepcosmos what their story tells them they mean.

That is a content or noun clause. These clauses function as nouns do. They can be the complement of a verb (and subject of a sentence.

Your example noun clause has another noun clause embedded in it.

Here is are two good references:

https://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/noun_clauses.htm

https://www.albert.io/blog/noun-clauses/

Hello, A.Stars,

When I parse the 1st sentence into 'People interpret facts to mean (that) their story tells them what they mean', I think;
1) 'what they mean'; direct object clause of verb 'tell' led by interrogative pronoun 'what'
2) they = facts
3) 'their story tells them what they mean'; the direct object clause of the 1st verb 'mean'.

then, am I right? However, I still feel repeating the verb 'mean' isn't natural. What am I missing here?

deepcosmosWhen I parse the 1st sentence into 'People interpret facts to mean (that) their story tells them what they mean', I think

No, "what" cannot be replaced with "that".

It is convoluted, but here is a paraphrase in simple sentences.

People interpret facts to have a meaning.
Facts have a story behind them.
That story tells the people how to interpret them, in other words what the facts mean. (the meaning of the facts.)
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AlpheccaStars
deepcosmosWhen I parse the 1st sentence into 'People interpret facts to mean (that) their story tells them what they mean', I think

No, "what" cannot be replaced with "that".

It is convoluted, but here is a paraphrase in simple sentences.

People interpret facts to have a meaning.
Facts have a story behind them.
That story tells the people how to interpret them, in other words what the facts mean. (the meaning of the facts.)

Hi, A.Stars, I really appreciate your explanation.

1. Then, does my following parsing make sense?;

"People interpret facts to mean [what their story tells them they mean]."

= People interpret facts to mean <what their story tells them=relative clause 1> <they mean=relative clause 2>.

= People interpret facts to mean <the thing=the common antecedent> (which their story tells them=relative clause 1) (which they mean=relative clause 2).

2. In the original sentence the pattern of 'interpret facts to mean'(verb - object - to infinitive) is the same as that of 'advise someone to do'?

Would hope to hear again, A.Stars,

deepcosmos= People interpret facts to mean .

A relative clause modifies a noun in the matrix clause.

I bought the same phone (antecedent) that (relative pronoun) my friend did.
I bought a blue shirt, (antecedent) which (relative pronoun) was made in Pakistan.

But in this case, there is no noun in the main clause that is being described or modified. Here is an example conversation.

Mom: You must go to bed at 9 pm. It is 9 pm. Go to bed.
Son (whining): What do you mean, mom? Tomorrow is a holiday and there is no school. I can stay up later, can't I?

Mom: I mean exactly what I said! Go to bed. Now!

The content clause, called a noun clause, is not a relative clause. There is no noun antecedent. It is the complement of the verb "mean."

Sometimes this is called a "fused" relative clause, which adds a hypothetical noun (i.e. "thing that") to the main clause and changes the word "what" to "that."

I do not particularly care for this analysis, because adding words that are not present and changing pronouns is not a good idea. The resultant sentence is much less natural.

I mean exactly the statement that I said!

deepcosmos2. In the original sentence the pattern of 'interpret facts to mean'(verb - object - to infinitive) is the same as that of 'advise someone to do'?

It is a similar pattern.

I advised my son to work hard.


I interpreted your words to mean "I made a stupid mistake".
I interpreted your words to mean that I had made a stupid mistake.

"mean" is often followed by a direct or indirect quotation.

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AlpheccaStars
deepcosmos= People interpret facts to mean .

A relative clause modifies a noun in the matrix clause.

I bought the same phone (antecedent) that (relative pronoun) my friend did.
I bought a blue shirt, (antecedent) which (relative pronoun) was made in Pakistan.

But in this case, there is no noun in the main clause that is being described or modified. Here is an example conversation.

Mom: You must go to bed at 9 pm. It is 9 pm. Go to bed.
Son (whining): What do you mean, mom? Tomorrow is a holiday and there is no school. I can stay up later, can't I?

Mom: I mean exactly what I said! Go to bed. Now!

The content clause, called a noun clause, is not a relative clause. There is no noun antecedent. It is the complement of the verb "mean."

Sometimes this is called a "fused" relative clause, which adds a hypothetical noun (i.e. "thing that") to the main clause and changes the word "what" to "that."

I do not particularly care for this analysis, because adding words that are not present and changing pronouns is not a good idea. The resultant sentence is much less natural.

I mean exactly the statement that I said!

Hi, A.Stars, sincerely appreciate your 2nd explanation~!!