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In this sentence:

So much is at stake that courses in foreign languages are often inadequate training grounds, in and of themselves, for the successful learning of a second language.

I have parsed the first clause 'So much is at stake' as

(b) So (=adjective modifying ‘much’) (c) Much (=noun indicating a large quantity or degree of life possibilities) (d) is (=verb) (e) at stake (=idiomatic complement, meaning ‘at risk’ ‘being risked.’)

Is there any special term for this kind of clause fronting a clause beginning with 'that?'

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Adverbial clause of reason?Courses in foreign languages are often inadequate training grounds, in and of themselves, for the successful learning of a second language because so much is at stake. –  YDAU Mar 3 '12 at 22:44
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So is not an adjective, much is not a noun, and the construction at issue is so X that Y. One wonders what knowing a name for this will contribute to understanding. BTW, the sentence is unclear as it stands. –  John Lawler Mar 3 '12 at 23:19
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Agreed. Typically So much is at stake that is followed by either a statement of what has been done to mitigate the risk, or a statement that something must be done to mitigate the risk; neither of those things follow here. –  Jim Mar 3 '12 at 23:23
    
@JohnLawler: I've attempted to provide an name for this in a way that will contribute to understanding. I'd welcome your comments. –  ruakh Mar 4 '12 at 0:53
    
@JohnLawler: I don't think it is entirely unreasonable to call "much" a noun in this case: a nounified adjective/determiner. –  Cerberus Mar 4 '12 at 2:34
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1 Answer

The term is extraposition, but for that make sense, I need to correct some of your parsing.

The key construction here is "so […] that […]". For example:

The snow was so soft that our shoes sank down pretty nearly to the walk. [link]

The horses are beaten so hard that the tassels from the whips became imprinted on their memories, said Edgar. [link]

It was just so much fun that it made up for the frustration that might have been. [link]

So is an adverb modifying an adjective such as soft, an adverb such as hard, or a determiner such as much. The that-clause serves as a "complement" to so: it completes the meaning. (The word that itself, by the way, can frequently be omitted without changing the meaning; hence "I was so happy I sang all day" [link], where "I sang all day" is still a that-clause, despite the lack of a literal that.)

Now, returning to your sentence:

So much is at stake that courses in foreign languages are often inadequate training grounds, in and of themselves, for the successful learning of a second language.

The subject of this sentence is:

so much / that courses in foreign languages are often inadequate training grounds, in and of themselves, for the successful learning of a second language

and the predicate is:

is at stake

("How much is at stake?" "So much, that courses in foreign languages are often inadequate training grounds, in and of themselves, for the successful learning of a second language!")

As you can see, the that-clause, even though it's part of the subject, has been separated from the rest of the subject, and put after the predicate. This is called extraposition: the that-clause is extraposed (extra- = "outside", posed = "put, positioned, located").

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I think you got it. Technically, it's Extraposition from NP, because it's moving the complement of much [NP], so it doesn't have to leave behind a dummy it subject the way regular Extraposition does. –  John Lawler Mar 4 '12 at 3:21
    
But the so [...] that [...] construction should spell out the resulting outcome. I.e., I should be able to turn the sentence around and (using your example) say, "Because the snow was so soft, our shoes nearly sank down to the walk." In the OP's statement there is no result: Because there is so much at stake, courses are inadequate for successful learning. I think the intent of the writer is more along the lines of: Because so much is at stake and because of their inadequacies, foreign language courses should not be used in isolation when learning a second language. –  Jim Mar 4 '12 at 6:24
    
@Jim: I agree. The sentence is poorly written. (The book that it comes from -- found by Googling -- is riddled with similar errors. For example, "Where does a teacher begin the quest for an understanding of the principles of language learning and teaching? By first considering some of the issues." The author appears to difficulty keeping track of how a given phrase fits, linguistically and conceptually, into its surrounding context.) –  ruakh Mar 4 '12 at 13:21
    
In fact the book is a widely used text for introductory courses teaching methodology in language learning. Looks like the author needed a better editor. –  YDAU Mar 5 '12 at 3:33
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