Logic is AAA and BBB, on < which > in turn CCC is based.

OED Loves Me Not

Senior Member
Japanese - Osaka
Hello, friends.
Logic is the essence of rationality and the foundation of mathematics, on which in turn the whole of science and technology is based.
     Source: http://ganymede.meccahosting.com/~a0003e53/A Taxonomy for Computer Education.pdf

:confused: Question:
  What is the antecedent of the relative pronoun "which" in the above sentence?
  In other words, what does the word "which" modify in the above sentence?

:idea: Possible answers:
  (1) Logic
  (2) The whole preceding phrase
    (that is, "Logic is the essence of rationality and the foundation of mathematics")
  (3) the essence of rationality and the foundation of mathematics
  (4) rationality and mathematics
  (5) mathematics.

:arrow: My view:
  Answer (4) [rationality and mathematics] is half correct.
  Answer (5) [mathematics] is the most correct.

Am I right? Thank you very much for reading my post.
 
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  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    The sentence is an anonymous quotation, right at the end of the document you have linked to. (A bit of a wild goose chase, that link. :))
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Not (2): 'which' can refer back to the state or fact described by an entire clause, but 'on which' (or any other such variation) can't. Grammatically, not (4), because the word 'foundation' has got left out. You can't extract the two items 'rationality' and 'mathematics' from larger phrases and make 'which' apply to both.

    There is another possibility: 'the foundation of mathematics'. However, both grammatically and by actual meaning, (5) is the best answer.
     

    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    Thank you very much for your answers, guys!
    So the best answer seems to be (5) [mathematics].

    I've always been sure of that, but lots of members
    of the forum for Japanese speakers learning English
    of which I'm a member assert confidently that it is
    (1) [logic] that is the antecedent of "which."
    I would tell them they're wrong, but I can't come
    up with a good, logical way to explain why.

    They've been reading this thread, so your further
    responses about this issue may help them even more.
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think "in turn" is the key here: logic stems from rationality and is the foundation for mathematics - maths in turn is the basis for science and technology. Mathematics is the most logical answer.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Various phrases are possible antecedents for 'which'. I ruled out several in my earlier comment, but 'logic' and 'mathematics' are both grammatically available (and so are some longer phrases). In this circumstance, where it could match either, and both make sense, it is more natural to take the closer one. It's a badly written sentence if 'logic' was intended, because 'mathematics' is much closer to 'which' and makes (at least) equally good sense. In fact it's arguable that it makes better sense: mathematics more directly underpins science, whereas logic underpins any enterprise.

    cross-posted Yes, I agree, 'in turn' shifts the focus from logic to mathematics. Another reason to take that interpretation.
     

    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    Thank you again, guys, for your further answers.
    From your responses, I understand that the points here are:

      (1) The relative pronoun "which" can refer back to various
        antecedents. However, if several antecedents are
        equally acceptable, the closest one to the "which"
        must be the best answer.

      (2) The phrase "in turn" is the key to the correct understanding
        that "mathematics" is the best answer.

    As for the above (2), my Japanese associates don't seem to
    understand the phrase "in turn" well enough. Dictionaries
    available to us don't seem to explain its meaning clearly enough,
    at least not from the viewpoint of speakers of Japanese, or perhaps,
    that of speakers of non-European languages for that matter.

    in turn
    [definition] as a result
    Example: I supported him and expected that he, in turn, would support me.
    (Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary)

    If I understand it correctly, the above example sentence boils down to the following:

    (1) I supported him.
      --> That is, I is the doer, while him (he) is the recipient of the action.

    then

    (2) I expected that he would support me.
      --> That is, here, the doer/recipient relationship is reversed,
    and it is now his turn to support me.
      --> That is, it is now he that is the doer. That is why the sentence here
        uses the phrase "in turn", which means something along the lines of:
        "Now it is his turn to do something."

    And this is what the phrase "in turn" basically means.
    Could you native speakers confirm this point?
    Could you tell me (and my associates from the forum
    for Japanese speakers learning English) whether I am
    correct in that understanding?

    I'm sorry again for my yet other lengthy comment.
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Sometimes "in turn" means "in return";For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?'' George Eliot

    Here, I think it's the idea of a series or sequence, from one to the other. If "in turn" were omitted from the sentence, the meaning would be less clear - it's not so easy to see the sequence and could more easily mean "the whole of science and technology is based on the foundation of mathematics".

    Logic is the essence of rationality and the foundation of mathematics, on
    which the whole of science and technology is based.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The natural interpretation is to take the relative with the nearest preceding substantive, unless there is a reason of grammar, logic or semantics which would rule it out. Thus 'mathematics' is the first candidate to consider. On grounds of grammar and logic, there is nothing against it.

    As for the semantic meaning, the proposition that 'the whole of science and technology is based on mathematics' is indisputable as a matter of fact and is vital to an understanding of those subjects. Thus 'mathematics' is not only not ruled out, but it makes an essential point.

    Those grounds are already enough to establish 'mathematics' as the antecedent.
    "in turn"...
    Here, I think it's the idea of a series or sequence, from one to the other.
    Yes: and that reinforces our conclusion beyond dispute. 'In turn' means 'in its turn', one acting after another: logic (the essence of rationality) is the foundation of mathematics: mathematics is the foundation of science.
     
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