Unfortunately I could not find an authentic example of the rare construct I have in mind, but I am just as sure as I am typing this question that I have read so many sentences from older prose where the relative pronoun "which" and the noun it refers to are both there. In this case, it sounded almost as though "which" were used as "such."

Which + its antecedent.

The following example is mine, not taken from any authentic author; but it attempts accurately to emulate many sentences I have read:

Yet a certain problem still persists in this society, which problem has been handed down from one generation to another.

Could it be that a writer is allowed to do so to avoid the syntactic ambiguity of whether "which" refers back to "society" or "problem"? Now of course the rest of the sentence may clarify for the reader what the antecedent for "which" is (without having to mention it); meaning that ". . . handed down from generation to another" gives the impression that the antecedent is indeed "problem." But still, could the combination of "which" followed by its antecedent "problem" be used to give the reader a more fluid and smooth reading experience?

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    I think I have seen this construct but modern usage would more likely be: "Yet a certain problem still persists in this society, a problem which has been handed down from one generation to another." – Mynamite Aug 11 '14 at 21:14
  • It may, for all I know, improve reading clarity, but like all archaic formulations, it's distracting. This is another variety of pied-piping, which variety repeats the noun antecedent, turning which into a modifier instead of pronoun. It's cumbersome, and it's consciously archaic -- or will be read that way. If this is a legal document, however, this does not apply. Laws and decisions have used this for a long time, and legal language is sposta sound archaic, the harder to understand it. – John Lawler Aug 11 '14 at 21:17
  • @John Lawler: I Couldn't help my curiosity. Is a there a reason why you emboldened 'sposta' besides that it's spoken? Also, did you type "which variety" on purpose, as a creatively contextualized example of the phenomenon? Or was it an a coincidence? – asef Aug 11 '14 at 23:24
  • @asef: To contrast it with not sposta, of course. And, yes, I often try to demonstrate the grammatical points I'm discussing. The more examples the better, especially if they arrive subliminally. Plus, if you know what you're doing, language is great fun to mess with. – John Lawler Aug 11 '14 at 23:28
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    @John Lawler: Many thanks for efforts. I am particularly thankful that you've referred me to pied-piping phenomenon. – asef Aug 11 '14 at 23:42

The Wikipedia article on English determiners contains:

Relative determiners:

which (quite formal and archaic, as in He acquired two dogs and three cats, which animals were then...);


whichever and whatever (which are of the type that form clauses with no antecedent: I'll take whatever money they've got).

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