reduced relative clause

Discussion in 'English Only' started by tireks, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. tireks Member

    Turkish
    The question below is from the official sat question of the day by collegeboard. The correct answer is given as 4. What do you think makes 2 wrong? Isn't it the reduced form of 4?

    Part of the following sentence is underlined; beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined material. Select the option that produces the best sentence. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the alternatives, select choice A.

    The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, it feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree.

    1. it feeds
    2. feeding
    3. they feed
    4. which feeds
    5. having fed
     
  2. Greyfriar

    Greyfriar Senior Member

    Hello tirex,

    In your example 4. is correct. If it were 2 you would need a full stop after Bombyx mori. 'It feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree.'
     
  3. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I would reject 2. for two reasons:

    1. Feeding could easily refer to the subject of the sentence, and the finest-quality (I'd like a hyphen there!) raw silk doesn't feed on anything.

    2. The silk worm isn't feeding; it feeds. The which feeds supplies this meaning.
     
  4. tireks Member

    Turkish
    I need to counter your reasons.

    1. I don't think it could easily refer to the subject as it does not make sense. It wouldn't be meaningful then.

    2. "feeding" does not correspond to the continuous form only.

     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  5. eehsun Member

    Ankara, Turkey
    Turkish
    As far as I know, you cannot reduce non-defining relative clauses except for 4 occasions:

    1. If it is used for "apposition"
    Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation, was born in Seattle.

    2. If it is used to reduce a clause where "which" refers to the whole sentence
    He kept complaining, making everyone else feel uncomfortable.

    3. If the clause is in passive
    The young girl's father, seen last by the doorkeeper, has been missing for 6 days.

    4. If it is used with certain verbs that express states, like hope, expect...
    Thomas, hoping to have passed the exam, left the class smiling.


    This is what I've learned at my college. Since I'm not a native speaker, I may have made some mistakes and/or the information may not be correct, in which case I'd like to be corrected.
     
  6. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Hello Tireks,

    I don't feel any such need, but I'll have a try nevertheless.:)

    1. It's because the sentence wouldn't be meaningful, that 2. won't do. You have put your finger on one very good reason why 2. has to be rejected. The fact that, to a native speaker, the ambiguity is possible, gives us good grounds for rejecting 2.

    2. If feeding doesn't mean feeding, then why are you thinking of using the word? Again, all the more reason for rejecting it. You need another form of words. I know that the present participle can have the habitual force of it feeds, but you asked for reasons why we'd reject 2. and that was one of them.

    Maybe Eeshun's list will give you what you regard as better grounds for rejecting it.
     
  7. tireks Member

    Turkish
    I agree that a possible ambiguity may be the reason to reject 2.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, which feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree.
    There is no doubt that this version has the relative clause right.

    The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, feeding on the leaves of the mulberry tree.
    If this sentence means anything, it means one of two things:
    The finest silk comes from silkworms that feed on the mulberry tree, not from silkworms that feed on the leaves of other trees.
    OR
    The finest silk comes from a particular silkworm that is currently feeding on the leaves of the mulberry tree.
     
  9. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    When you say that Eeshun's list doesn't deal with the issue at hand, I'm surprised you add an even.

    Eeshun's list gives the occasions when a relative can be reduced; the fact that it doesn't mention the example we are dealing with should lead you to conclude that 2. is not a possible answer, not to consider it as supporting your championship of 2. Your even suggests that you haven't seen the direction in which what Eeshun says bears on the issue.
     
  10. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Take a similar structure:

    The biggest frogs live in ponds, feeding on the larvae of the caddis fly.

    Couldn't it be the frogs which are feeding on the larvae?

    Doesn't the structure of the sentence in the OP, setting aside the absurdity of the idea, leave open the possibility that the silk is feeding on the leaves? I think good writers try to avoid such ambiguities of structure.
     
  11. tireks Member

    Turkish
    Somehow I do not see why the "feeding" structure would have an ambiguity, but "the "which feeds" version not.

    There must be some other reason why collegeboard thinks 2 is not preferrable or at least equal to 4.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  12. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    To me, the inserted appositive, Bombyx mori, produces ambiguity because of the commas. With it, I am inclined to read "feeding" as modifying the subject of the sentence, for reasons of syntax ~ though logic tells against it. Without it, I don't have that problem.
    The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm feeding on the leaves of the mulberry tree.
    With the commas, I read the overall sentence as:
    The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm, feeding on the leaves of the mulberry tree.
    This punctuation usually indicates that what follows the comma modifies the subject of the main clause.
     
  13. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Indeed it could.
    (I have difficulty with the idea that the raw silk is feeding, but that's only because it would be completely illogical. The frog sentence is logical.)

    The difficulty comes because participial relative clauses at the end of sentences are slippery little devils.
    Often, they do not modify the immediately preceding noun, but some or all of the preceding clause.
    In the topic sentence, I cannot find any way to read the participial clause as a non-defining relative clause modifying silkworm.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  14. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Neither can I, Panj.

    I think Cagey makes a good point about commas.
     
  15. eehsun Member

    Ankara, Turkey
    Turkish
    By the list I wrote down, I actually meant to point to the second item on it in connection with the sentence provided by OP.

    2. If it is used to reduce a clause where "which" refers to the whole sentence, you can make reduction in a non-defining relative clause; otherwise, you cannot

    ...Bombyx mori, it feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree. When you turn this into a relative clause, it becomes a non-defining one:
    ...Bombyx mori, which feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree.

    I was saying that this clause cannot be reduced to Bombyx mori, feeding on the leaves of the mulberry tree because which in the original clause does not refer to the previous sentence as a whole, but only refers to Bombyx mori.
     
  16. tireks Member

    Turkish
    Reduced relative clauses can be used in a defining and non-defining manner. Please take the example given by Martin Hewings quoted above into consideration. The comma there does not necessarily turn "feeding" into non-defining relative clause.

    I met the people living in our old house [= who live in our old house].
     
  17. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    According to common conventions of punctuation:
    I met the people living in our old house. (The people I met were living in our old house.)
    I met the people, living in our old house. (I met the people while I was living in our old house.)
    The comma does make a difference regarding how we understand the sentence. This is relevant to the original question as I said above; the second comma setting off the appositive may be read as a comma dividing the second half of the sentence from the first. In fact, the punctuation would be exactly the same if that were the case, as it is in the sentence that is produced by the preferred answer, "which feeds".
    The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, which feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree.

    (=The finest quality raw silk comes from the Bombyx mori, which feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree.)​
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010
  18. tireks Member

    Turkish
    The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, feeding on the leaves of the mulberry tree.

    a) The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm, feeding on the leaves of the mulberry tree.

    b) The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm feeding on the leaves of the mulberry tree.

    a doesn't make sense, so one wouldn't interpret the sentence as a.
     
  19. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    No, it doesn't. If at first we read it as a, for the reasons I explained, we realize that it doesn't make sense and go back and reread it to make sense of it.

    In general, I prefer not to require readers to puzzle out the meaning. As much as possible, I want it to be clear at the first reading. While "feeding" can be defended grammatically, I would avoid it for stylistic reasons. I suspect that is also the reason "which feeds" was given as the only correct answer to the SAT question.
     
  20. djp517 New Member

    Enlish - American

    Exactly. I think that's what everyone is trying to tell you. "a" doesn't make sense but a native English speaker will interpret the sentence that way if you use "a". It creates an unnecessary ambiguity.

    You may be unable to see this ambiguity because you've already decided that you're answer is the correct one but in actuality this is probably the reason Collegeboard says that that sentence construction is wrong.

    Indeed a doesn't make sense, but one wouldinterpret the sentence as a.
     
  21. tireks Member

    Turkish
    I am able to see it. Thanks.

    And it is not "you're answer", it is "your answer". <Uncalled for personal remark removed by moderator.>
    Thank you, Cagey. I agree with you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 8, 2010

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