reduced relative clauses

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mugallym, Oct 8, 2008.

  1. mugallym

    mugallym Member

    USA English
    My question has to do with reduced relative clauses. I have a textbook (Making Connections by Pakenham) for ESL learners in academic settings in the US which has this example of a relative clause (underlined):

    A sound track that contained the same conversation with the same two voices was added to each videotape.

    Now, the text states that this example can be reduced to the following:

    A sound track containing the same conversation with the same two voices was added to each videotape.

    My question is: why does it change from the past participle contained to the gerund (?) containing when the clause is reduced?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The clause with subject that and verb (past tense) contained becomes a participial phrase with present participle containing. Both the clause and the participial phrase modify "sound track".

    Containing can mean "that contained", "that was containing", "that contains", or "that is containing". I think this works because the tense and aspect of "contained" are not important to the context.
     
  3. mugallym

    mugallym Member

    USA English
    Thanks forero.

    I was just wondering about one aspect of your explanation. Are you saying that the that clause in the first is example is a relative clause, but when it reduces, the clause is no longer a relative clause but is considered instead as a participial phrase? Or is the phrase part of the clause? :confused:

    I understand your point that in this example the tense and aspect are unimportant. But if they are unimportant, why is the following sentence not correct:

    *A sound track contained the same conversation with the same two voices was added to each videotape
     
  4. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Yes, the relative clause reduces to a participial phrase.

    In spite of the names "present participle" and "past participle", English participles, like infinitives, have no tense.

    What I meant to say was that "containing" works because, in the sample sentence, we don't need to distinguish "that contains" (simple present tense), "that is containing" (present tense, progressive or continuous aspect), "that contained" (simple past tense), and "that was containing" (past tense, progressive or continuous aspect), which all reduce to the same participle, "containing".

    The other participle "contained" does not fit the context, but might be used in a passive (voice) sense, as a reduced form of "that is contained", "that gets contained", "that has been contained", "that was contained", etc.

    A present participle can take a direct object such as "the same conversation", but a past participle cannot.

    Another example (note that no particular tense is implied by either participle) -

    "Present" participle: a growing boy (a boy that is or was still growing).
    "Past" participle: a grown man (a man that is, has, was, or had already grown up).
     
  5. ohmyrichard Senior Member

    Hi, Forero.
    I've got a multiple choice question below and I think it is another good example.

    "The man preparing the documents is the firm's lawyer" has all the following possible meanings EXCEPT
    A. the man who has prepared the documents
    B. the man who has been preparing the documents…
    C. the man who is preparing the documents
    D. the man who will prepare the documents

    It gives me a big headache. I choose A, but I'm not so sure of it. Please help me with it.
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi Richard

    I think your multiple-choice question is calculated to bring on a headache:eek:. But I agree with your answer!

    I take a very mechanical approach to the expansion of reduced relative clauses:
    (1) add a relative pronoun
    (2) insert the appropriate tense of the verb "to be"
    (3) if necessary (eg because the verb is a stative one) change a progressive tense to a simple one.

    Here, the appropriate tense of the verb "to be" is "is" (because of the "is" in is the firm's lawyer); and there is no need to change from a progressive to a simple tense.

    So, to my mind, the expansion of The man preparing the documents is The man who is preparing the documents.

    It follows that to answer your multiple-choice question, I had to ask myself "is The man who is preparing the documents translatable as answer A etc?"

    Is it translatable as:
    D. the man who will prepare the documents? Yes, because "is preparing" can have a future meaning
    C. the man who is preparing the documents? Yes, by definition;)
    B. the man who has been preparing the documents? Yes, just about, since "has been preparing" can imply "is [still] preparing" {I think this one's a bit dubious, myself...}
    A. the man who has prepared the documents? No, because in this case the document preparation is over.

    I need to go and lie down now....
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2009
  7. thoroughlyconfused Member

    English - Canada
    I concur with Loob (#6) -- at least the conclusion (I'm basically too lazy to read the analysis!): C and D are the most natural meanings, B is conceivable but a tad dubious, and A is not allowable.

    If I were to analyze it carefully, I'd probably also need to go and lie down. :)
     
  8. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Hi, Richard.

    That's a tough question and an unnatural one. A through D as well as the use of has in the question are all ambiguous.

    The most likely meaning of the present participle is expressed by C, and none of the others has to have that meaning. On the other hand, context can be imagined to support any of the four for the present participle in question.

    For example, C can sometimes mean D, but the usual meaning of C is not shared by D. A and B share various meanings of which some reduce to the sample sentence and some do not: "The man who has (always) prepared the documents" can imply "... who (still) prepares" as easily as "the man who has (just now) been preparing" can imply "... who is (still) preparing".

    We have to mentally assign "probabilities" to all the possible meanings and eliminate any interpretation that does not lead to a unique answer.

    I suspect there is more than one way to reach a plausible unique answer, but the first one I come to is the same as Loob's.
     
  9. ohmyrichard Senior Member

    I appreciate your great reasoning process. Thanks a lot.
    Richard
     
  10. ohmyrichard Senior Member

    I agree with you that this is someting you can decide by instinct, but it is something so tricky for us non-native speakers.
     
  11. ohmyrichard Senior Member

    Thanks.
     
  12. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Senior Member

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    I think the term 'reduced relative clause' is misleading. A relative clause is finite (has tense) and is preceded by a relative pronoun (who/which/that). The 'participial phrase' could also be defined as a non-finite (tenseless) clause. I would prefer to say that they replace each other, rather than one being reduced or expanded into another.

    The key issue is how we can modify (=add description to) a noun with a clause, and the answer would be:
    1) with a relative clause:
    The man who was preparing the documents has been killed in a traffic accident.
    Mr. Burgess shredded the documents that had been prepared by Mr. Blunt.

    2) with a non-finite clause:
    The man
    preparing the documents has been killed in a traffic accident.
    Mr. Burgess shredded the documents prepared by Mr. Blunt.

    I hope this is not any more confusing, it's just a non-native view of the issue.

    /Wilma
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2009
  13. ohmyrichard Senior Member

    Thanks for your help.
     
  14. JonathanSmith New Member

    English
    Would anyone on this thread be able to tell me if the following sentences are correct?

    A person who enjoys observing animals could be a good photographer.

    A person enjoying observing animals could be a good photographer.

    I think the second sentence is incorrect becuase the verb "enjoy" can not be reduced to a participle phrase in the same way that other verbs can be. Even if it is correct, it seems to me that the meaning would be slightly different. The first sentence refers to a general fact whereas the second sentence would indicate something that is happening in the moment.

    Can anyone please help me with this??? :confused:
     
  15. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The second sentence could mean the same as the first, but it is an unlikely sentence no matter what it means.

    We tend to think of enjoying more as something a person experiences rather than something a person does, and we tend to avoid two -ing forms in a row, so "enjoying observing" sounds strange. A couple of minor changes gives us:

    A person liking to observe animals could be a good photographer.

    ... which I think preserves most of the possible meanings and sounds a little less strange.
     
  16. JonathanSmith New Member

    English
    Thanks for the Reply Forero!!! I will take this into consideration!
    :)
     

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