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  1. #1
    l10nel is offline Newbie
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    Default Is this a valid scenario for a sentence?

    Hello again,

    This is a related question to the "what is the antecedent" post of mine earlier, but allow me to treat it as a separate thread.

    The sentence in question:

    What is the name of the girl [relative pronoun] you want to know?

    My view: The antecedent is 'the girl', therefore the relative pronoun can be: whom/who/that/[nothing]. 'The name' can't be the antecedent as the sentence would become nonsensical (or have a semantic/logical error).

    An opposing view is that 'the name' CAN be the antecedent for a specific scenario, which I describe below.

    Suppose A is a mother anxious to find out from B, a teacher, whether her daughter's name has been included in a list of students who have been admitted to a prestigious school :)

    A: Could you check whether my girl is on the list?
    B: What is the name of the girl that/which you want(ed) to know?
    OR
    What is the girl's name that/which you want(ed) to know?
    A: Jane, Jane Doe.

    The supporter of 'name' as antecedent claims that this is a valid scenario and that he/she actually heard someone utter a sentence like the teacher's question above in asking the mother what the name is.

    My response: I believe someone actually would utter a sentence like that above in this type of scenario, using the verb 'know' and treating 'the name' as the antecedent and object of 'know'. However, the wording of the question is not correct for this scenario as far as standard English is concerned. The question is still understandable to the mother, but this doesn't make the wording correct. The appropriate wording should be, if one must use the word 'know':

    What is the name of the girl that/which you want(ed) to know the result for? [1]

    But using 'know' is unnatural. More natural questions for this scenario:

    What is the name of the girl that/which you want(ed) me to check the list for?

    Better yet:

    What's the name of the girl you are looking for?
    What's the girl's name you are looking for?

    It's a common mistake to omit the final words in sentence [1], even by a (sloppy) native speaker.

    My conclusion: As far as standard/correct English is concerned, the scenario above therefore should be ruled out in discussing the meaning and the antecedent of the original sentence: What is the name of the girl [relative pronoun] you want to know? This rules out 'the name' as antecedent, leaving 'the girl' as the only possibility.

    I hope I've explained this clearly enough. What is your opinion on this? Do you believe the "name list" scenario above should be considered acceptable or be ruled out?

  2. #2
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Is this a valid scenario for a sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by l10nel View Post
    What is the name of the girl [relative pronoun] you want to know?

    An opposing view is that 'the name' CAN be the antecedent for a specific scenario, which I describe below.

    Suppose A is a mother anxious to find out from B, a teacher, whether her daughter's name has been included in a list of students who have been admitted to a prestigious school :)

    A: Could you check whether my girl is on the list?
    B: What is the name of the girl that/which you want(ed) to know?
    OR
    What is the girl's name that/which you want(ed) to know?
    A: Jane, Jane Doe.

    Yes, that's certainly a possible scenario, in which that sentence might be heard, and in which "name" is the intended referent. People do not always speak grammatically.

    The supporter of 'name' as antecedent claims that this is a valid scenario and that he/she actually heard someone utter a sentence like the teacher's question above in asking the mother what the name is.
    Well, that's probably neither here nor there. You hear a lot of things.
    All it proves is that that sentence has been used with that intended meaning. Whether the sentence means that grammatically, out of context, is a different proposition. It's always possible to think of a scenario in which a non-grammatical sentence could make sense if you don't look at it very closely.

    My response: I believe someone actually would utter a sentence like that above in this type of scenario, using the verb 'know' and treating 'the name' as the antecedent and object of 'know'. However, the wording of the question is not correct for this scenario as far as standard English is concerned. The question is still understandable to the mother, but this doesn't make the wording correct.
    Quite right.

    The appropriate wording should be, if one must use the word 'know':

    What is the name of the girl that/which you want(ed) to know the result for? [1]
    Hmm, the result of the girl?

    But using 'know' is unnatural. More natural questions for this scenario:

    What is the name of the girl that/which you want(ed) me to check the list for?
    Yes, that's good.

    Better yet:

    What's the name of the girl you are looking for?
    What's the girl's name you are looking for?

    Even better - leave the girl out altogether: "What is the name you wanted me to look for?"

    It's a common mistake to omit the final words in sentence [1], even by a (sloppy) native speaker.

    My conclusion: As far as standard/correct English is concerned, the scenario above therefore should be ruled out in discussing the meaning and the antecedent of the original sentence: What is the name of the girl [relative pronoun] you want to know? This rules out 'the name' as antecedent, leaving 'the girl' as the only possibility.

    I hope I've explained this clearly enough. What is your opinion on this? Do you believe the "name list" scenario above should be considered acceptable or be ruled out?
    The name list scenario gives a context in which that sentence could be used casually, with 'name' as the referent. It doesn't make "name" a grammatically acceptable antecedent though.

    One problem with this sentence is that the answer will be the same no matter which antecedent in chosen. If the girl's name is Mary; "name" = Mary, and "girl" = Mary. The name you want to know is the same as the name of the girl you want to know.
    What is the name of the girl you want to know? => Mary (regardless of antecedent)

    I think the question now has three tricks in it.

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Is this a valid scenario for a sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by l10nel View Post
    What is the name of the girl [relative pronoun] you want to know?

    My view: The antecedent is 'the girl', therefore the relative pronoun can be: whom/who/that/[nothing].

    As Raymott pointed out in the other thread: 'It's an unlikely sentence in English. We generally don't say, "I want to know that girl." We'd be more likely to say, "I'd like to meet (or get to know) that girl."'

    An opposing view is that 'the name' CAN be the antecedent for a specific scenario, which I describe below.

    A: Could you check whether my girl (we'd probably say 'my daughter') is on the list?
    B: What is the name of the girl that/which you want(ed) to know? NO
    OR
    What is the girl's name that/which you want(ed) to know?Unlikely

    B would simply say 'What is her name?' or 'What is your daughter's name?'


    What is the name of the girl that/which you want(ed) me to check the list for?
    What's the name of the girl you are looking for?
    Those two are OK.
    What's the girl's name you are looking for? NO

    This rules out 'the name' as antecedent, leaving 'the girl' as the only possibility.
    That is what we said in the other thread.
    5

  4. #4
    l10nel is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Is this a valid scenario for a sentence?

    5jj and Raymott:

    Thanks so much for sharing your views in both threads. The original sentence, I have to admit, seems forced. The source is unknown. Perhaps it was created by a Taiwanese English teacher with the purpose of testing students' ability to identify the antecedent. Beyond getting a good grasp of grammar, naturalness in English expressions is something we non-native speakers all strive for.

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