[Grammar] Is "where" a relative pronoun or a relative adverb?

Mori

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He lives in a village where there are no shops.
When who, which, where, etc are used in this way, they are called relative pronouns.

Michael Swan, Practical English Usage fourth edition, Section 21


the hotel where they were staying
When, where and why used in this way are called relative adverbs.

A.J. Thomson & A.V. Martinet, A Practical English Grammar fourth edition, Page 83


I believe Swan has loosely classified all these relative words as relative pronouns and A Practical English Grammar is more accurate there. What do you think?
 

jutfrank

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In both examples, where is an adverb. I'd be interested to hear Michael Swan attempt to justify his claim that it is a pronoun.
 

Phaedrus

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The two positions are reconcilable. In generative grammar, such uses of "where" have been analyzed as realizing locative prepositional phrases from which the preposition has been obligatorily deleted. Notice that prepositions are sometimes optionally deleted from prepositional phrases in sentences like "She wants to move (to) someplace new."*

In that sentence, "someplace new" is a noun phrase but (according to this view) also realizes an entire prepositional phrase from which the preposition has been deleted. Now, consider the question "Where does she want to move?" "Where" may be analyzed as a noun phrase realizing an adverbial prepositional phrase. The same may be said of "where" in relative clauses: "the place where she wants to move."

source: "The Syntax of Free Relatives in English," by Bresnan & Grimshaw, Linguistic Inquiry, 1978, pp. 331-391.
 

jutfrank

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Notice that prepositions are sometimes optionally deleted from prepositional phrases in sentences like "She wants to move (to) someplace new."*

In that sentence, "someplace new" is a noun phrase but (according to this view) also realizes an entire prepositional phrase from which the preposition has been deleted. Now, consider the question "Where does she want to move?" "Where" may be analyzed as a noun phrase realizing an adverbial prepositional phrase. The same may be said of "where" in relative clauses: "the place where she wants to move."

She wants to move [to] someplace new.


Whether or not the preposition is uttered makes no difference to the meaning. The to-ness is implied. Similarly, in the question Where does she want to move [to]?

Are we to understand that someplace new is an object which she wants to move? Of course not. So what's the point of analysing it like this?

In any case, this kind of analysis does not apply to Swan's example. There are no shops in the village.
 

Mori

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The two positions are reconcilable. In generative grammar, such uses of "where" have been analyzed as realizing locative prepositional phrases from which the preposition has been obligatorily deleted. Notice that prepositions are sometimes optionally deleted from prepositional phrases in sentences like "She wants to move (to) someplace new."

According to the Oxford Dictionary, where is just an adverb, but someplace is both a pronoun and an adverb:

She wants to move someplace new. (adverb)

She wants to move to someplace new. (pronoun)


The same doesn't apply to where as a relative word:

He lives in a village where there are no shops. = He lives in a village in which there are no shops.

As you see you can't remove the preposition in.
 
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Phaedrus

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Are we to understand that someplace new is an object which she wants to move?

No. Consider the following sentences. I'll simply things further.

(i) She moved there.
(ii) She moved (to) someplace new.

In the question "Where did she move?" and in the noun phrase "the place where she moved," "where" plays the role of "there" in (i), and "there" in (i) plays the same role as "someplace new" in (ii), with or without the preposition "to." Therefore "where" in the question "Where did she move?" and in the noun phrase "the place where she moved" may be analyzed as a prepositional phrase which is adverbial or as a noun phrase inside an adverbial prepositional phrase with an omitted preposition.
 
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TheParser

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What do you think?


NOT A TEACHER

Here is how two scholars have explained it.


"I remember the house where I was born,"

a. "Any adverb which is correctly employed as a substitute for a prepositional phrase containing a relative pronoun may be called a relative adverb." (all emphases are mine)

b. Therefore, that sentence is just another way to say: "I remember the house in which I was born."



Homer C. House and Susan Emolyn Harman, Descriptive English Grammar (Copyright 1931 and 1950).
 

jutfrank

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Therefore "where" in the question "Where did she move?" and in the noun phrase "the place where she moved" may be analyzed as a prepositional phrase which is adverbial or as a noun phrase inside an adverbial prepositional phrase with an omitted preposition.

Yes, I follow. In fact this is the point I was trying to make. If it's a NP inside a PP, then how does that not make it a PP, which is adverbial?

[To] Where did she move?

My view is that it should be analysed as an adverbial PP whether the preposition is omitted or not. I feel that even if the preposition is omitted in speech, it is still there in an important way, as an integral part of the meaning of the phrase.

I suppose this is an example where semantic analysis and grammatical analysis can bear different results. Usually when this is the case, one analysis makes sense and the other doesn't.
 

jutfrank

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Whatever the label I chose, and the sources I gave to support my choice, some members would come up with convincing reasons and sources to show I was wrong. I would suggest, Mori, that you stick with the label your teacher of the moment uses.

Unless you are going on to study grammar/linguistics at undergraduate and graduate level, the only real reason to learn word-class labels is to keep your teacher off your back.

I don't think we're disagreeing so much on labels as much as on the function of a word, which is more useful and has some pedagogic value. I assume from the member info that Mori is a teacher.
 

jutfrank

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That's another problem we have these days. I don't consider word-class labels (adverb, preposition, adjective, etc) to be/describe 'functions'. Function words are words such as subject, object, modify/modifier, etc.

Yes, I take your point. Perhaps I should have said something like 'semantic role'.
 

jutfrank

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Teachers mostly just need to be able to explain usage and how it relates to meaning. Although it's not necessary for them to have a great knowledge of grammatical terminology, it certainly helps their credibility when their knowledge is greater than that of the students.

The problem I find for learners is when they hear two different teachers seemingly contradicting each other, which they tend to find rather disconcerting.
 

Phaedrus

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The lack of agreement about the correct word-class labels for certain expressions in this thread reflects the lack of agreement among academic grammarians.
Point taken, Piscean, but sometimes different labels reflect different analyses.

My own interest in this topic took root a couple of years ago when a fellow ESL teacher -- one with a great deal more experience than I have -- asked me whether I could explain why "to" was optional in a sentence like London would be a good place to go (to). My fancy academic hypothesis at the time was that the version without "to" derives from a deep structure with "where," "where" being obligatorily silenced upon being moved to the the front of the nonfinite (infinitival) relative clause modifying "place" (*London would be a good place where to go) just as we must silence "which" in nonfinite relatives (*London would be a good place which to go to) unless it functions as the object of a preposition and that preposition precedes it (London would be a good place to which to go).

I consulted a former syntax professor of mine as to whether she thought my explanation was correct and what she thought. That was when I learned of the article I cited in my first post -- a masterful study that I am not competent enough to explicate for the benefit of learners. But the point that drew me to that sixty-page article in the first place was that Bresnan and Grimshaw were the first linguists to observe that "where" and "when" have two different syntactic categories: NP or PP.

Perhaps I need to work on finding ways of making the idea more learner-friendly before actually trying to use it to help learners; however, flawed as my abilities may be at present in that regard, it seems to me that the basic analytical point here is potentially immensely helpful in ESL pedagogy. Observant learners sometimes want to know why "to" is optional in sentences such as the one above, or in questions like Where did she fly (to)? Why is it not the case that it must be one way or the other? It's because "where" can function either as the object of that preposition (a pro-NP) within the prepositional phrase, or as the prepositional phrase entire (a pro-PP).

It's the structural difference that matters to me here, not the labels.

Respectfully,
David
 

Mori

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In both examples, where is an adverb. I'd be interested to hear Michael Swan attempt to justify his claim that it is a pronoun.
There are cases where where seems to be a relative pronoun. I wonder what you think of this one:
Do you know where he comes from?
 
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