0

I'm unable to understand this sentence.

In which we try to explain why we consider artificial intelligence to be a subject most worthy of study, and in which we try to decide what exactly it is, this being a good thing to decide before embarking

In the above sentence, I have two questions:

  1. What does in which mean here?

  2. Why is it this being ... rather than this is in the last part?

  • 2
    It's not a sentence, it's a pair of relative clauses and an absolute clause (This being &c) acting as the subtitle of a chapter; the referent of the two whiches is the chapter itself: this is what is 'in' the chapter, what it contains. The whole is a gentle parody of 19th century chaptering style. – StoneyB Mar 8 '17 at 7:29
  • @StoneyB And I was about to ask for more context. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 8 '17 at 7:46
0

Can't comment yet, but: There are two questions. The guidelines suggest focusing on one question. I'll try to answer, anyway, for the reputation.

That example sounds like the abstract of a research paper, in fact a book [0]. I deem the style rather colloquial (e.g. "we try", "good idea"), which is common for researchers who are not primarily linguists, I dare to say. Although, "in which" is aimed at a formal tone. (I doubt it's a parody, more like tradition or homage).

To start with "In which" draws a connection to the matter of the title. Here, it means as much as "here" ("in" denotes direction). This usage is highly idiomatic, because "which" normally introduces a subordinate clause, not a substantive clause. Comparison to "wherein" suggests we are dealing with an adverb, hence an adverbial clause.

The latter subordinate clause "this being a good idea" is superfluous, because we expect to be presented with positive work. However, repetition is a valid stylistic device.

Subordinate clauses don't require a verb. "being" is used as participle [1], so "is" is not directly an alternative. That construction is called Participle Clause and, because of the weak noun "this", Nominative Absolute [2]. Using "is" is possible, but it would turn the sub clause into a main clause, or require a connective like "because". Frankly, it's a contraction to keep the text shorter.

[0] Russel & Norvig: Introduction to AI: A Modern Approach

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participle

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_absolute

PS:

I don't think I understand this sentence completely

That's what English Language Learners SE is for; which is probably why perfectly good answers are posted as comments instead.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.