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  1. #1
    Jonathan_Lee6032 is offline Newbie
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    a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Dear all,

    I found this tricky sentence while scrolling my phone and was curious about how it grammatically works:

    "European officials reacted with surprise and anger after US President Donald Trump imposed a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic." (source: EDN hub)

    Analysis & Discussion:

    Following is my analysis of the underlined part:

    (1) "...a trans-Atlantic travel ban" is the antecedent for the following relative clause.
    (2) "...they fear" is "the parenthetical expression", inserted to tell readers the attitude of the European officials towards the implementation.
    (3) "...which" is supposed to be right after the antecedent "... travel ban...", but for some reason, it is omitted, as tentatively illustrated in (4).
    (4) Without the parenthetical expression "they fear", the omitted "which" is the subject relative pronoun of the verb "wound" and it CANNOT be omitted; however, the insertion of "they fear" grammatically turns the subject relative pronoun "which" into the object relative pronoun, which makes the relative pronoun "which" here omittable. (Note that the omitted "which" is semantically the subject of the verb "wound".)

    Therefore, I think the underlined part is originally "... a trans-Atlantic travel ban [which] they fear will wound economies ...". (I am not sure if this explanation works for you.)

    I found other possible analyses on the Internet. Some said that the subject relative pronoun in this case can be omitted, and some mentioned that it is the "pushdown/ embedded relative clause". So... what do you think?

    Thanks in advance for the replies from you.

    *If there is any terminology I used that doesn't sound right to you, please help me correct it. Thanks!

  2. #2
    jutfrank's Avatar
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Yes, there is a (wrongly) omitted which acting as subject of the verb wound in a relative clause. This pronoun has travel ban as its antecedent.

    (I don't know what a 'pushdown' relative clause is. Could you explain?)
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 22-Mar-2021 at 12:32. Reason: Made title match new original

  3. #3
    jutfrank's Avatar
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Logically,omission of the relative in 1b is equally incorrect. but it sounds OK to me.

    Strange.
    It sounds okay to me too, as does the sentence in the OP. Whether we're going to say it's incorrect depends on what we mean by incorrect, of course. Suffice to say, I think the sentence reads and sounds better with the relative pronoun in place.

    I have a feeling that the insertion of the embedded clauses (they fear/I think) permits the omission because we're normally so used to omitting relative pronouns when there follows a subject noun phrase directly after, instead of the verb. That makes us falsely think the pronoun is an object, and so we omit it.

    I wonder what the big modern grammars have to say about this.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 22-Mar-2021 at 12:32. Reason: Made title match new original

  4. #4
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan_Lee6032 View Post


    (4) Without the parenthetical expression "they fear", the omitted "which" is the subject relative pronoun of the verb "wound" and it CANNOT be omitted; however, the insertion of "they fear" grammatically turns the subject relative pronoun "which" into the object relative pronoun, which makes the relative pronoun "which" here omittable.
    NOT A TEACHER

    Hi,

    Are you sure that "they fear" is a parenthetical expression in your sentence?

    I think that it would be in a sentence such as "Some students they fear do not study hard." A parenthetical expression is defined by most traditional grammars as an independent expression that is "wedged" into a sentence and does not affect the grammar of the sentence. So it can always be left out from a grammatical point of view.

    But as you have correctly pointed out, "they fear" does affect the grammar of your sentence and cannot be left out: "He imposed a ban that they fear will wound economies." That has a meaning that is different from "He imposed a ban that will wound economies."

    *****

    I know that I am being audacious, but I think that one of my favorite books has made an error. It gives this sentence (which I have abbreviated): "Our club will sponsor any student whom we know to be capable." It, like you, claims that "we know" to be parenthetical. But if you leave it out, the sentence is ungrammatical: "Our club will sponsor any student whom to be capable." "Whom" is clearly the object of "know." -- Pence & Emery, A Grammar of Present-Day English (1947), page 405.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 22-Mar-2021 at 12:33. Reason: Made title match new original

  5. #5
    Phaedrus's Avatar
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan_Lee6032 View Post
    ". . . a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic." [. . .]

    (2) "...they fear" is "the parenthetical expression", inserted to tell readers the attitude of the European officials towards the implementation. [. . .]
    (4) Without the parenthetical expression "they fear", the omitted "which" is the subject relative pronoun of the verb "wound" and it CANNOT be omitted; however, the insertion of "they fear" grammatically turns the subject relative pronoun "which" into the object relative pronoun, which makes the relative pronoun "which" here omittable. (Note that the omitted "which" is semantically the subject of the verb "wound".)

    Therefore, I think the underlined part is originally "... a trans-Atlantic travel ban [which] they fear will wound economies ...". (I am not sure if this explanation works for you.)
    I agree with TheParser that "they fear" is not a parenthetical expression in the relative clause. As I analyze the sentence, the subject of the relative clause is "they," and its verb is "fear," which is complemented by its own clause. It is that embedded clause, the clause complementing "fear," that the omitted "which" comes from. It is the subject of that embedded clause. Compare: They fear that the trans-Atlantic travel ban will wound economies.

    In The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston and Pullum, 2002), it is explained that a relative pronoun that functions as the subject of a complement clause that is embedded within a larger relative clause can be omitted: "We need . . . to distinguish between relativisation of the relative clause subject and relativisation of an embedded clause subject" (p. 1047).

    They give the following examples to illustrate the point. What I have represented as (i) appears as a subscripted i in CGEL. It indicates coreference.

    [40] i a. This car is safe.
    [40] i b. I want a car(i) [that __(i) is safe].

    [40] ii a. I know [this car is safe].
    [40] ii b. I want a car(i) [that I know [__(i) is safe]].

    [41] i *I want a car(i) [__ is safe]. [gap as subject of relative clause]
    [41] ii I want a car(i) [I know [__(i) is safe]]. [gap as subject of embedded clause]
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 22-Mar-2021 at 12:33. Reason: Made title match new original
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  6. #6
    Jonathan_Lee6032 is offline Newbie
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Thank you all for sharing your valuable opinions on this analysis! Sorry that I took some time to think about possible analyses and explanations. It seems that there is no grammar book that can thoroughly explain this sentence. So far there have been three different kinds of analyses that can be taken into consideration for discussion. But before that let’s not forget the original sentence in the news report.

    "European officials reacted with surprise and anger after US President Donald Trump imposed a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic."

    (1) At first, I was not sure, after reading the definition of “parenthetical expression”, whether I should call “they fear” the parenthetical expression. The term is so close to what I expected “they fear” to be, so I tentatively used it then. The reason why I thought of “they fear” as “parenthetical expression” is that “they fear” is to some degree redundant because the main subject and its predicate have already expressed their attitude (European Officials reacted with surprise and anger…, which may imply “they’re afraid that the ban will wound the economies”). It doesn’t semantically affect the sentence but merely grammatically, as I mentioned in my analysis (“they fear” grammatically turns the subject relative pronoun into omissible object relative pronoun, simply because “they fear” is inserted right after the relative pronoun). Note that the contributing factor of the omission here (the embedded clause permits the omission) is different from that in (2) (“they fear” is the subject and verb of the relative clause). If the definition of parenthetical expression doesn’t justify my analysis, then I think the writer just wrongly omitted the relative pronoun “which/that”.

    (2) I know some may say that (a) the relative pronoun is the subject in the that-clause (as... they fear that which/that will wound economies…), (b) the conjunction that is omitted, (c) “which/that” is moved to the position where it attaches itself to the antecedent “… ban”, and (d) “which/that” is omitted because it is the object of the verb “fear”. But how about the verb “… will wound”? Some may say that the subject is “which/that” and it is just moved to the front. For that, I want to ask: is there any rule to illustrate the movement of “which/that”? I understand the movement semantically, but it doesn’t make any syntactical sense to me. Besides, I don’t think that Huddleston and Pullum (2002), as Phaedrus introduced (Thanks!), provided explanation for this linguistic phenomenon; they only pointed out that there is a sentence written like this and left the sentence open for discussion (see p.1047 of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language for subject vs. embedded subject). Please correct me if I misinterpret the content.

    (3) Some mentioned “subject contact relative”. Please click the link for it. Some English experts consider it vernacular because it is not grammatically correct.

    I have to say that I am not a fan of digging into grammar, but I just want to make sure I will be able to give a convincing explanation in the future when I’m asked about the similar sentence. Anyway, I’m looking forward to further discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    (I don't know what a 'pushdown' relative clause is. Could you explain?)
    Hi, jutfrank

    It is originally called “pushdown elements” in A comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk et. al. (1985). I am not sure if “pushdown” relative clause exists, but it is like “embedded” relative clause, as a netizen provided an example discussed In GMAT textbooks:

    (1) The passage conveys two points that critics believe result from watching television.

    S/he suggested that the sentence can be interpreted as the combination of two sentences:

    (2) The passage conveys two points that result from watching television.
    (3) Critics believe that two points result from watching television.


    The embedded clause critics believe in (1) is used for semantically “hedging” as a way to express speaker's propositional attitude. In addition, the omission of "critics believe" won't change the meaning of the sentence. According to “pushdown elements”, "two points" in (2) is the antecedent for the relative pronoun, while that in (3) becomes the subject of the that-clause, the reason of which is that the embedded clause “…critics believe…” is pushed down to make “two points” an antecedent.

    But still that doesn’t answer the question of why subject relative pronoun is omitted. Perhaps, as you said, the embedded/pushdown relative clause permits the omission.

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    I am not sure that I totally agree that it's wrongly omitted.

    Let's take a simpler example:

    1a. That's the election (which/that) will stick in our minds
    .
    That sentence is clearly wrong with the relative omitted, though you'll hear things like it in some dialects.

    1b. That's the election (which/that) I think will stick in our minds.

    Logically,omission of the relative in 1b is equally incorrect. but it sounds OK to me.

    Strange.
    Hi, Piscean

    It reminds me that some students of English second language learners tended to say "where are you come from?" in speaking class. It's understandable in conversation but not grammatically acceptable.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    Are you sure that "they fear" is a parenthetical expression in your sentence?

    I think that it would be in a sentence such as "Some students they fear do not study hard." A parenthetical expression is defined by most traditional grammars as an independent expression that is "wedged" into a sentence and does not affect the grammar of the sentence. So it can always be left out from a grammatical point of view.

    But as you have correctly pointed out, "they fear" does affect the grammar of your sentence and cannot be left out: "He imposed a ban that they fear will wound economies." That has a meaning that is different from "He imposed a ban that will wound economies."
    Hi, TheParser

    No, I'm not sure. I doubted it and used the word "tentatively" accordingly.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    I know that I am being audacious, but I think that one of my favorite books has made an error. It gives this sentence (which I have abbreviated): "Our club will sponsor any student whom we know to be capable." It, like you, claims that "we know" to be parenthetical. But if you leave it out, the sentence is ungrammatical: "Our club will sponsor any student whom to be capable." "Whom" is clearly the object of "know." -- Pence & Emery, A Grammar of Present-Day English (1947), page 405.
    Right... that's true. Perhaps "parenthetical expression" was not thoroughly defined then?

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    I agree with TheParser that "they fear" is not a parenthetical expression in the relative clause. As I analyze the sentence, the subject of the relative clause is "they," and its verb is "fear," which is complemented by its own clause. It is that embedded clause, the clause complementing "fear," that the omitted "which" comes from. It is the subject of that embedded clause. Compare: They fear that the trans-Atlantic travel ban will wound economies.
    Hi, Phaedrus

    In that case, what does the omitted object relative pronoun represent? If "they fear" is the subject and verb of the relative clause, the omitted "which" should be the object relative pronoun of the whole that-clause rather than "a trans-Atlantic travel ban". Alternatively, is it syntactically allowed to have the movement of the subject of that-clause to the front?

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    In The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston and Pullum, 2002), it is explained that a relative pronoun that functions as the subject of a complement clause that is embedded within a larger relative clause can be omitted: "We need . . . to distinguish between relativisation of the relative clause subject and relativisation of an embedded clause subject" (p. 1047).

    They give the following examples to illustrate the point. What I have represented as (i) appears as a subscripted i in CGEL. It indicates coreference.

    [40] i a. This car is safe.
    [40] i b. I want a car(i) [that __(i) is safe].

    [40] ii a. I know [this car is safe].
    [40] ii b. I want a car(i) [that I know [__(i) is safe]].

    [41] i *I want a car(i) [__ is safe]. [gap as subject of relative clause]
    [41] ii I want a car(i) [I know [__(i) is safe]]. [gap as subject of embedded clause]
    Thanks for introducing this book! I read this section but didn't find their explanations for these sentences. I assume for a moment that the most persuasive explanation for the omission of relative pronoun functioning as the subject of the complement clause is the vernacular.

    Thank you all again for sharing your opinions!
    Last edited by Jonathan_Lee6032; 22-Mar-2021 at 14:44. Reason: Made title match new original

  7. #7
    Jonathan_Lee6032 is offline Newbie
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Unlike the construction we are discussing, no native speaker would utter that or consider it correct.
    I know native speakers won't make this ridiculous mistake. I just wanted to say that for a beginner of second language, this may not be noticed because it sounds correct and conversationally understandable, with the exact same words as "where do you come from". But it is found incorrect moments later when the utterance is processed in the head.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 22-Mar-2021 at 12:34. Reason: Made title match new original

  8. #8
    Phaedrus's Avatar
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan_Lee6032 View Post
    [. . .] "European officials reacted with surprise and anger after US President Donald Trump imposed a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic." [. . .]

    (2) I know some may say that (a) the relative pronoun is the subject in the that-clause (as... they fear that which/that will wound economies…), (b) the conjunction that is omitted, (c) “which/that” is moved to the position where it attaches itself to the antecedent “… ban”, and (d) “which/that” is omitted because it is the object of the verb “fear”. But how about the verb “… will wound”? Some may say that the subject is “which/that” and it is just moved to the front. For that, I want to ask: is there any rule to illustrate the movement of “which/that”? I understand the movement semantically, but it doesn’t make any syntactical sense to me. Besides, I don’t think that Huddleston and Pullum (2002), as Phaedrus introduced (Thanks!), provided explanation for this linguistic phenomenon; they only pointed out that there is a sentence written like this and left the sentence open for discussion (see p.1047 of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language for subject vs. embedded subject). [. . .]

    (3) Some mentioned “subject contact relative”. Please click the link for it. Some English experts consider it vernacular because it is not grammatically correct. [. . .]

    But still that doesn’t answer the question of why subject relative pronoun is omitted. [. . .]

    Hi, Phaedrus

    In that case, what does the omitted object relative pronoun represent? If "they fear" is the subject and verb of the relative clause, the omitted "which" should be the object relative pronoun of the whole that-clause rather than "a trans-Atlantic travel ban". Alternatively, is it syntactically allowed to have the movement of the subject of that-clause to the front?
    Hello, Jonathan:

    You are a man on a grammatical mission! That's great to see. I am going to number my remarks for ease of reference.

    (i) You are right that, at least on that particular page of CGEL, Huddleston and Pullum do not provide an explanation of why "who" or "that" can be omitted in such examples, but simply illustrate the syntactic phenomenon.

    (ii) However, by not placing an ungrammaticality asterisk next to their example I want a car I know is safe, they endorse it as standard, grammatical English. Further, by stating that the "gap" is "subject of [the] embedded clause," they are telling us that that's where the gap is.

    (iii) You are aware, I assume, that zero relative clauses are grammatical. It's perfectly correct to say things like "This is a book I have read" (we don't need to add "that" or "which" after "book") and "She is a person I have been thinking about" (we don't need to add "that" or "whom" after "person").

    (iv) In such zero relative clauses, the gap of the relative clause is either where the direct object would be or where the object of a preposition would be. Zero relatives do not work, or are nonstandard/dialectal (as your "subject contact relatives" are), where the gap is the subject of the relative clause.

    (v) What do we find in your example? The gap is a subject, but it is not the subject of the relative clause. It is the subject of a clause complementing the main verb of the relative clause, namely, "fear": Trump imposed a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear __ will wound economies.

    (vi) Therefore, I submit that we are not seeing a violation of the rule governing zero relatives, that the gap in such clauses is never, in standard English (which your "subject contact relatives" are not) the subject of the relative clause. In the following variation, subject-verb agreement forces that interpretation:

    Trump imposed a type of ban(i) many fear/say/think/believe/suppose/maintain __(i) wounds economies.

    (vii) In case you aren't aware of this, relativized elements in relative clauses can not only be in embedded clauses, but in clauses embedded within the embedded clauses. Here's an example: He is the man (whom)(i) he thinks she said they believe they saw __(i) on TV last week.
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  9. #9
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Interesting responses, all good. I'll just affirm that it's fine as originally written and would be muddled adding which or that.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  10. #10
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Re: a trans-Atlantic travel ban they fear will wound economies

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    I agree that it sounds fine as it is. I don't agree it would be 'muddled as:
    "European officials reacted with surprise and anger after US President Donald Trump imposed a trans-Atlantic travel ban that they fear will wound economies already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic."
    Absolutely. I just mean that wordiness muddles English. Adding one unnecessary word makes it one word muddler. Since the sentence is already a mouthful, I'd look for words to take out, not to add.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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