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The original sentence:

In this way, we have learned all that we know of the laws of astronomy, or of the habits of the social insects, let us say.

Please let me make it simpler as below:

In this way, we have learned all that we know of the laws of astronomy.

In the above sentence, what is modified by "of the laws of astronomy"?

  1. know (of the laws of astronomy)

  2. that (of the laws of astronomy)

  3. that we know of the laws of astronomy [i.e., we know that (of the laws of astronomy)]

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    4. None of the above. The adverbial prepositional phrase is modifying the noun phrase "all that we know," in this case. – geekahedron May 21 at 13:43
  • @geekahedron, thanks. I am still confusing. Do you think "all" is a determiner, an adverb, or a pronoun in this case? – Charlie May 21 at 13:57
  • It would be a pronoun, the head of the aforementioned noun phrase. Consider a simpler statement like "we learned all" and the same with the pronoun replaced, as in "we learned astronomy." – geekahedron May 21 at 13:59
  • @geekahedron, if "all" is a pronoun, then "that we know" would be its attributive clause, the phrase structure is like "all (that we know)," right? If so, the sentence would be parsed as: In this way, we have learned all (that we know) of the laws of astronomy. right? – Charlie May 21 at 14:11
  • All is a quantifier, and quantifiers are usually determiners (though they can float to adverbial position). In this sentence, all is short for all things because it's immediately followed by a relative clause that we know of the laws of astronomy to denote what those things are. The in this way part at the beginning is an adverb phrase that can also go at the end, as well as in several niches inside the sentence. – John Lawler May 21 at 14:35
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To make parsing this sentence simpler, you can remove the cautionary "that we know of" and just say:

In this way, we have learned all of the laws of astronomy.

The author has added the phrase "that we know of" because there is a strong possibility that we do not know all of the laws of astronomy. We only know "all that we know".

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