We've found out out "what" we need to know. (relative pronoun?)

sitifan

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We've found out out "what" we need to know.

In the above sentence, is "what" a relative pronoun or an interrogative pronoun?
 

PaulMatthews

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We've found out what we need to know.

I'd say it's interrogative.

"What" introduces the underlined subordinate interrogative clause (embedded question). The meaning is:

"We've found out the answer to the question 'What do we need to know?'"
 

5jj

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I consider it relative. The meaning is "We've found out the thing that we need to know".

Is the label important to you, sitifan?
 

Phaedrus

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I see at least one consideration in favor of the interrogative analysis of wh-clause complements of "find out," namely, that Pied Piping is possible in that syntactic context. That Pied Piping is possible in embedded questions but not in free relative clauses was demonstrated by Joan Bresnan and Jane Grimshaw in 1978, in their Linguistic Inquiry journal article "The Syntax of Free Relatives in English."

We've found out what it consists in.
We've found out in what it consists.

We've found out whom he relies on.
We've found out on whom he relies.


versus:

We like what it consists in.
*We like in what it consists.

We like whomever he relies on.
*
We like on whomever he relies.
 

5jj

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That Pied Piping is possible in embedded questions but not in free relative clauses was demonstrated by Joan Bresnan and Jane Grimshaw in 1978,
What was demonstrated was that pied piping is possible in embedded questions but not in free relative clauses as they define the labels I have italicised.
 

Phaedrus

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What was demonstrated was that pied piping is possible in embedded questions but not in free relative clauses as they define the labels I have italicised.
Yes. Being good linguists, they tend to define what they are talking about. That's partly what makes their demonstration so good. Unless you have good reason to doubt their definitions, we may say that their demonstrations hold true of that which the terms you have italicized signify.
We've found out "what" we need to know.

In the above sentence, is "what" a relative pronoun or an interrogative pronoun?
If "what" is a relative pronoun in sitifan's example, "what we need to know" is a free relative clause (or what you and PaulMatthews may know as a "fused relative") in that example. If "what" is a relative pronoun in sitifan's example, "what we need to know" is an embedded question (embedded interrogative) in that example.

Consider the following pair of sentences:

(1a) We found out what his name is.
(2a) We like what his name is.

Let's suppose his name is John. I find it interesting that "what his name is" can be converted to "the name John" after "like" but not after "found out":

(1b) *We found out the name John.
(2b) We like the name John.

If "what" in the "what"-clause in (1a) were equivalent to "that which," as it is in (2a), we would expect the semantic substitution in (1b) to work, just as it does in (2b). But it does not. This is another piece of evidence that wh-clauses following "find out" are embedded questions rather than free relative clauses (or "fused relatives").

This is not surprising in light of the fact that "We found out what his name is" and "We found out that his name is John" are not identical in meaning and use, even when the person in question is known to be John himself.
 

PaulMatthews

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We've found out what we need to know.

I think the idiom “find out” licenses an interrogative, rather than a fused relative.

It’s not a question of having already discovered something but of cognitively finding the answer to the question "What do we need to know?"

(Incidentally, in the fused relative construction “what we need to know” is not a clause but an NP, hence it mistakenly being taken as object of “found out”.)
 

5jj

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(Incidentally, in the fused relative construction “what we need to know” is not a clause but an NP, hence it mistakenly being taken as object of “found out”.)
It is in some schools of grammar.
 

Phaedrus

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(Incidentally, in the fused relative construction “what we need to know” is not a clause but an NP, hence it mistakenly being taken as object of “found out”.)
Parsed as a free (or "fused") relative, "what we need to know" does contain a clause, even if it is not itself a clause, the noun phrase headed by "what" being co-referent with the gap in direct-object position following "know" in the clause "we need to know __," which clause obviously forms part of the phrase "what we need to know."

Even if it is not yet fully conceded that "what we need to know" is an interrogative in "We've found out what we need to know," that it is possible for "find out" to be complemented by an interrogative (of the yes-no type) can be demonstrated by observing that it can take "whether"-clause complements:

We shall find out whether he told the truth.

Notice how different in meaning that sentence is from this one:

We shall find out that he told the truth.

I'm not sure whether it is fully grammatical to separate a separable phrasal verb with a free ("fused") relative, but, if it is, this may be another way we can arrive at a conclusion in this matter. I myself find it possible, if not elegant, to use the second sentence below instead of the first:

He put on what he had worn the day before.
He put what he had worn the day before on.

In sitifan's example, however, I find "find out" inseparable:

We've found out what we need to know.
*We've found what we need to know out.
 
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sitifan

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5jj

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That is opinion, not fact.
 

PaulMatthews

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Parsed as a free (or "fused") relative, "what we need to know" does contain a clause, even if it is not itself a clause, the noun phrase headed by "what" being co-referent with the gap in direct-object position following "know" in the clause "we need to know __," which clause obviously forms part of the phrase "what we need to know."
I'm aware of the syntax of fused relatives. As I said, it's an NP, not a clause.

It's the NP "what" that is simultaneously head of the whole NP and object (in prenuclear position) in the relative clause.
 
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5jj

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That also is an opinion, not a fact.
 

5jj

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Sightly off topic.

You need to remember, sitifan, that when it comes to labelling word classes (parts of speech) and groups of words (phrases, clauses), there are few hard facts. Writers on grammar do their best to study and analyse such things, and come up with labels as a useful shorthand for "all words/groups of words that behave in a simiar way". I doubt if there has been a single year in the 536 years since the first known English grammar was published in which there has been universal agreement on the 'best' labels.
 

Phaedrus

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We've found out what we need to know.

I think the idiom “find out” licenses an interrogative, rather than a fused relative.

It’s not a question of having already discovered something but of cognitively finding the answer to the question "What do we need to know?"
That assessment of the situation works for me, as it matches my sense of "find out" followed by a wh-clause, as well as the syntactic facts I've adduced.

Still, I find it odd that "find out" should not also license free/fused relative complements when followed when followed by a wh-clause.

One can find something out (find NP out), after all; and, when one does, what one finds out is that something is the case, not whether something is the case.

Perhaps find out can be separable and nonseparable as a phrasal verb, and the type of find out that we are considering is the nonseparable variety.

Consider this:

We found out his name.

That seems equivalent in meaning to We found out what his name was, or We found out the answer to the question "What is his name?"

I have mixed feelings (mostly bad) about the following variation:

? We found his name out.

Does that sentence even work? If not, I think we may conclude that there are two different types of find out, and that sitifan's find out is not the find-it-out type.
 

jutfrank

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I think it's right that this question comes down to the meaning/interpretation of find out. and I agree with Phaedrus that there are two ways to think of it:

1) to discover some piece of information
2) to answer a particular question

It's the interpretation of the original sentence to mean 2 above that is leading to an interrogative analysis by some of us, myself included, though I do think it's possible to interpret the sentence to mean 1, too.


Perhaps find out can be separable and nonseparable as a phrasal verb, and the type of find out that we are considering is the nonseparable variety.

Consider this:

We found out his name.

That seems equivalent in meaning to We found out what his name was, or We found out the answer to the question "What is his name?"

I have mixed feelings (mostly bad) about the following variation:

? We found his name out.

Does that sentence even work? If not, I think we may conclude that there are two different types of find out, and that sitifan's find out is not the find-it-out type.

What about?:

We finally found out the truth

Would you consider this to be of the 'discover information' variety or of the 'answer to the question' variety? And do you find the following separation grammatical?

? We finally found the truth out
 

orangutan

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We've found out out "what" we need to know.

In the above sentence, is "what" a relative pronoun or an interrogative pronoun?
It seems to me the sentence is ambiguous, and it could be either.

Sorry if someone has already said this.
 
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