when the first cattle herders appeared

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77Cat77

Senior Member
Chinese
I have trouble in figuring out when is "when" in such sentences as follows.
"The highlands in South Africa were inhabited by hunter-gatherers living around mountains near the plains until about 3300 B.C., when the first cattle herders appeared."
Does "when" refer to "about 3300 B.C." or "until about 3300B.C."?

Cave art seems to have reached a peak toward the end of the Upper Paleolithic period, when the herds of game were decreasing.
Does "when" refer to "toward the end of the Upper Paleolithic period" or just "the end of Upper Paleolithic period"?

Is there any grammar rules applicable here? Thanks!
 
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  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by your first question. How could "when" refer to "until about 3300 B.C.?"

    If you meant to ask whether "when" refers to 3300 B.C. or "about" 3300 B.C., that's a better question, and similar to your second question.

    While the sentences are potentially ambiguous, we would generally understand that the same time period is being referred to in both parts of the sentence.

    The highlands in South Africa were inhabited by hunter-gatherers living around mountains near the plains, until the first cattle herders appeared. That was about 3300 B.C.

    Cave art seems to have reached a peak at the time when the herds of game were decreasing. That was toward the end of the Upper Paleolithic period.
     

    77Cat77

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by your first question. How could "when" refer to "until about 3300 B.C.?"

    If you meant to ask whether "when" refers to 3300 B.C. or "about" 3300 B.C., that's a better question, and similar to your second question.

    While the sentences are potentially ambiguous, we would generally understand that the same time period is being referred to in both parts of the sentence.

    The highlands in South Africa were inhabited by hunter-gatherers living around mountains near the plains, until the first cattle herders appeared. That was about 3300 B.C.

    Cave art seems to have reached a peak at the time when the herds of game were decreasing. That was toward the end of the Upper Paleolithic period.
    Thank you for your explanation. My confusion focuses on the whether "when" functions in these two sentences as a relative pronoun, which only refers to the noun "about 3300 B.C.", or functions as a conjunction of adverbial clause, further explaining when the event in front of it happened?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "The highlands in South Africa were inhabited by hunter-gatherers living around mountains near the plains until about 3300 B.C., when (= at which time) the first cattle herders appeared."
     

    77Cat77

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by your first question. How could "when" refer to "until about 3300 B.C.?"

    If you meant to ask whether "when" refers to 3300 B.C. or "about" 3300 B.C., that's a better question, and similar to your second question.

    While the sentences are potentially ambiguous, we would generally understand that the same time period is being referred to in both parts of the sentence.

    The highlands in South Africa were inhabited by hunter-gatherers living around mountains near the plains, until the first cattle herders appeared. That was about 3300 B.C.

    Cave art seems to have reached a peak at the time when the herds of game were decreasing. That was toward the end of the Upper Paleolithic period.
    "The highlands in South Africa were inhabited by hunter-gatherers living around mountains near the plains until about 3300 B.C., when (= at which time) the first cattle herders appeared."
    Thank you! Now I get it!
    What about this sentence?
    About 400 million years ago, when the present-day continents of North America and Europe were joined, the Caledonian mountain chain was the same size as the modern Himalayas.
    How does "when" function here?
     

    77Cat77

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you, PaulQ and Florentia52. You have solved my confusion.
    I only considered that "About 400 million years ago" and "until about 3300 B.C." in respective sentences function as adverbial, but omit the fact that the former is a noun phrase, used as an adverbial, but the latter is a prepositional phrase. Thus, "when" refers to "About 400 million years ago" ,and "about 3300 B.C." but not "until about 3300 B.C." Thank you very much!
     
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