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I quite often find in New York Times that American writers often use an objective relative pronoun--or omitted it all together--where, I strongly believe, a subjective relative pronoun should be present.

Example 1

thanks to well-publicized remarks about the women he suggested weren’t attractive enough for him to have assaulted

Here, the original two chunks are "Thanks to well publicized remarks about the women" and "he suggested the women weren't attractive enough for him to have assaulted." And, as we can obviously see, "the women" is the subject of a noun clause embedded in the second chunk; thus when the two were combined, it should have been "Thanks to well publicized remarks about the women who he suggested weren't attractive enough for him to have assaulted." And since it is a subjective relative pronoun, it should not have been omitted.

Example 2

from the arrival of the soldiers, whom they believed had been sent to help them.

Here, the original two chunks are "from the arrival of the soldiers" and "they believed the soldiers had been sent to help them." Again, as we can see, "the soldiers" is the subject of a noun clause embedded in the second chunk; thus when the two were combined, it should have been "from the arrival of the soldiers who they believed had been sent to help them." And since it is a subjective relative pronoun, it should not have been omitted.

I understand that languages change with time and according to the usage of native speakers, or writers in this case, not vice versa. Is this why objective relative pronouns are replacing subjective ones?

  • In your first example: "... the women [(that) he suggested ___ weren’t attractive enough for him to have assaulted]", R is subject of the embedded “weren’t” clause: “He suggested R weren’t attractive enough”. “That” is omissible because the R element is subject not of the relative clause but of the content clause embedded within it. "That” could be replaced with “who” (or for some "whom"). The same applies to your second example: R is omissible because it is subject of the embedded content clause. (R = relativised element) – BillJ Jan 9 '17 at 15:24
  • It's going to take more than a pronoun to fix that sentence. This is slander lawyer speak. The writer is inventing and interposing about three layers of cutouts between himself and anything resembling a quote. – Phil Sweet Jan 9 '17 at 16:34
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Your second example with whom is unremarkable; see this Language Log article: Whom loves ya? (The title is deliberately non-standard)

Geoffrey K. Pullum says

In cases where a relative or interrogative human-class pronoun is associated with subject function in a subordinate clause that is not the main clause in which it is preposed, usage is divided, but many prescriptive authorities (ignoring quite a significant body of educated usage) regard whom as incorrect; they would recommend the person who the police thought ___ was responsible rather than the person whom the police thought ___ was responsible, as the relative pronoun is understood as the subject of was responsible (even though it is not the subject of the whole relative clause, the police thought ___ was responsible). The preference is stronger for interrogatives: Whom did the police think ___ was responsible? would be disrecommended by most usage authorities.

So it goes against some people's idea of "the rules", but it is known that many people use "whom" in situations like this.

The first example is interesting in terms of the pronoun omission; it seems unusual to me now that you point it out. I had never thought of how pronoun omission works in sentences of this type:

thanks to well-publicized remarks about the women he suggested weren’t attractive enough for him to have assaulted

You are of course right that normally we can't omit a subjective relative pronoun: it would be ungrammatical to say

*thanks to well-publicized remarks about the women weren’t attractive enough for him to have assaulted

However, this may just be a coincidence: normally, a subjective relative pronoun is the subject of the the following relative clause, while here, the subject of that clause is he, and the relative pronoun would only be the subject of an even further embedded clause. In other words, maybe the restriction is not against deleting a subject pronoun, but against deleting a pronoun that serves as the subject of the entire relative clause.

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