• WARNING: The forums will be closed for maintenance for 60-90 minutes starting at 10:30 am US Eastern Time (GMT -5, 2:30 pm in most of Europe).

a book whose name

grammar-in-use

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello everyone,

He’s written a book whose name I’ve forgotten.

As is known, "whose name I've forgotten" is a relative clause, with "whose" being a relative pronoun. And then comes this question: what is the antecedent of "whose", book or a book?

Thanks a lot in advance!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You could look at it either way, but I think technically the antecedent of whose is just the noun book, since “whose name” = “the name of which book” (not the name of which a book – it can’t have both determiners).
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    You could look at it either way, but I think technically the antecedent of whose is just the noun book, since “whose name” = “the name of which book” (not the name of which a book – it can’t have both determiners).
    Thank you very much, Lingobingo! You know exactly what I'm trying to figure out.😊
    I'd like to see it this way: ...a book whose name I've forgotten -->I've forgotten its name. As "whose" can be transformed into "its", I'm inclined to think that the whole NP "a book" (since "its" refers to "a book"), rather than just the nominal "book", is the antecedent of "whose".
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    I suppose you could say that the antecedent of 'whose' is the NP 'a book', of which the noun 'book' is the head.

    We could then analyse 'whose' as being ' the name of which NP - the name of a book (not 'the name of book').

    Grammarians can play games like this for hours - or months!

    (Crossposted with grammar-in-use)
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    What do you see as the distinction?

    If you split the sentence into two, you find it becomes "the book" (having previously been identified):
    He’s written a book. I’ve forgotten the name of the book
    Thank you! Yeah, I know the sentence can be split into the two; that's why I would like to see "a book" as the antecedent of "whose".
    However, things seem to become different for that-relative-clause. Let's take another example:
    This is the best novel that I've ever read.
    The antecedent is just the nominal "best novel". Only supplementary relatives can have a full NP as antecedent, as Billj wrote in post #14 of this thread: I'm now the fattest that...VS fatter than...
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    You could look at it either way, but I think technically the antecedent of whose is just the noun book, since “whose name” = “the name of which book” (not the name of which a book – it can’t have both determiners).
    Good point, but I think that is just a result of syntax (and its rules).
    I'd argue that a relative pronoun usually refers back to the whole noun phrase.

    cf. "He’s written two unforgettable books whose names I’ve forgotten." (sarcasm intended!)
    "Two" is a quantifier and a determiner and 'whose' clearly refers back to the whole NP "two unforgettable books."

    [cross-posted]
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It has been argued that the difference between defining and non-defining relative clauses is the level of their attachment: defining ones are at the N level, non-defining at NP level:

    [the book], [whose name I have forgotten]
    the [book whose name I have forgotten]
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    cf. "He’s written two unforgettable books whose names I’ve forgotten." (sarcasm intended!)
    "Two" is a quantifier and a determiner and 'whose' clearly refers back to the whole NP "two unforgettable books."

    [cross-posted]
    Very good example! That is exactly how I would see whose-relative-clauses! So, I think that whose-relative clauses seem to work differently than that-relative-clauses, as in the example I gave above:
    This is the best novel that I've ever read.
    Here, the antecedent is just the nominal "best novel", not the full NP "the best novel".
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    :confused:
    Are you asking if 'a' belongs with the word 'book'? It is the indefinite article, so it follows 'book' wherever it is needed.
    Thank you for your reply. I guess that you should have understood what I'm trying to figure out if you've read all the replies.😊
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It has been argued that the difference between defining and non-defining relative clauses is the level of their attachment: defining ones are at the N level, non-defining at NP level:

    [the book], [whose name I have forgotten]
    the [book whose name I have forgotten]
    Yeah, I know the technical difference between defining and non-defining relative clauses. However, I incline to think that whose-relative-clauses seem to work differently than other defining relative clauses. Like I can't convince myself to take just "book" as the antecedent.
    Let's consider another example:
    Aimlessness has hardly been typical of the postwar Japan whose productivity and social harmony are the envy of many countries.
    What is the antecedent of "whose"?
    A. Japan
    B. postwar Japan
    C. the postwar Japan

    Would some native speakers give their choices? I'd really appreciate it.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I would have written:

    The book, the title of which I have forgotten, was the best novel I had ever read.

    (I prefer "title" for a book, rather than "name".)
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    This is the best novel that I've ever read.
    Here, the antecedent is just the nominal "best novel", not the full NP "the best novel".
    To be honest, that goes a bit beyond my level of interest for grammar theory.
    I just browsed through a few websites; some include the article in their definition of antecedents and some don't. I'm sure they have good reasons for it, but well...

    On the Wiki page on noun phrases they do discuss different views based on dependency grammar, X-bar theory, etc. etc., and it does seem to make sense within the confines of those theories, but those are all modern approaches on grammar that should not be blindly blended with the good old traditional school grammar. When I started to learn English, they didn't even mention any of those terms or theories, let alone explain details.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I tend to agree with boozer. Determiners are added to make it clear what thing a noun or noun phrase refers to; I don't see that they are intrinsic to the noun or noun phrase itself, and you can freely change the determiner depending on the situation in which you are referring to the thing.

    I would therefore say that the antecedent is "book", but it is not "book" in general, but the particular instance of "book" just mentioned, which, in this case, represents a particular piece of published writing. This restricts what you can do with the relative clause. You could not say, for example:
    He’s written a book whose pages are yellow​
    because the pages being yellow only works when the word "book" represents a physical object, which here it does not.

    Whether or not you include the article in what you deem the antecedent makes no difference; it does not change what the word "book" represents in the sentence.
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Determiners are added to make it clear what thing a noun or noun phrase refers to; I don't see that they are intrinsic to the noun or noun phrase itself, and you can freely change the determiner depending on the situation in which you are referring to the thing.
    Good point! Thank you very much, Uncle.
    So, you would think that, in post #12, the antecedent should be "postwar Japan", right?
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    So, you would think that, in post #12, the antecedent should be "postwar Japan", right?
    For me, it must be B) or C).
    Option A), Japan, is impossible because as soon as you add an attributive adjective to a noun, it modifies this noun. Obviously, Japan in general expresses a different idea than the specific 'postwar Japan'.
    Off the top of my head I cannot think of a sentence where a relative pronoun could break that bond between the adjective and the noun it modifies.
    Maybe that's also the reason why I like to look at the antecedent as the whole noun phrase including determiner. It is a connected syntactical building block of a sentence, and I have a hard time seaparating it into its constituents when analyzing sentence-level grammar. (even though some modern grammar concepts may do exactly that for specific reasons)
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Maybe that's also the reason why I like to look at the antecedent as the whole noun phrase including determiner. It is a connected syntactical building block of a sentence, and I have a hard time seaparating it into its constituents when analyzing sentence-level grammar. (even though some modern grammar concepts may do exactly that for specific reasons)
    I agree. I suppose 'whose' has a different antecedent in each sentence it appears. And the exact composition of that antecedent is determined on a case-to-case basis depending on the meaning. But like you, this is not something I have ever lost sleep over. :)
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    So, you would think that, in post #12, the antecedent should be "postwar Japan", right?
    I would. However, I think it is a mistake to overly worry about the exact words used in the sentence, rather than what the words represent. If the context of the postwar period had already been established before your Japan sentence, then the writer might not have felt it necessary to add "postwar" before Japan. However, "Japan" would still refer to postwar Japan, and "whose" would refer to postwar Japan as well, even though its antecedent was the single word "Japan".
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top