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Here is a sentence from Literature, Technology and Modernity, 1860-2000:

Just as Vickery has been turned into a three-dimensional negative by an electrical storm, the war dead survived, by the industrial light and magic of cinema, as so many shaky on-screen images, not so much signs whose referents have disappeared as mummies.

I was wondering whether there is something missing here concerning "so much signs". Should it be "so much by signs"? Or how to understand the last part?

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2 Answers 2

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You are mis-parsing it. The relevant phrase is the complex quantifier "not so much ... as ...".

The clause parses as

[[not so much] [signs whose referents have disappeared] as [mummies]].

or to paraphrase

less like signs whose referents have disappeared than like mummies.

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If we disregard everything that has no relevance to understanding the grammatical construction which you are finding hard to follow, we could rewrite the crucial part of the sentence like this:

They were not so much signs as they were mummies.

Alternatively,

They were mummies more than they were signs.

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