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I would like to know the meaning of "In what is, to our knowledge,". Thse words are in an academic paper. Google translate says "As far as we know," but I cannot understand the part of "In what is" especially. Could you explain this, please? The whole of sentence is

In what is, to our knowledge, the largest quantified study on the allowance of social touch on bodily regions, we reveal that interpersonal emotional bonds are associated with spatial patterns for social touch in a culturally universal manner across a broad range of European countries with varying cultural conventions."

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    It's impossible to say what 'in what is' refers to without being able to read the whole of the sentence. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 15:22
  • Thank you for the comment. The whole of sentence is "In what is, to our knowledge, the largest quantified study on the allowance of social touch on bodily regions, we reveal that interpersonal emotional bonds are associated with spatial patterns for social touch in a culturally universal manner across a broad range of European countries with varying cultural conventions."
    – peridotite
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 9:53
  • You are on the wrong site. Please go to English Language Learners.
    – David
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 17:58
  • We have carried out the largest quantified study on the allowance of social touch on bodily regions (or so we believe), and in it we reveal that interpersonal emotional bonds are associated with spatial patterns for social touch in a culturally universal manner across a broad range of European countries with varying cultural conventions. Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 16:04
  • Thank you. So... why does "is" need in "in what is"?
    – peridotite
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 5:21

4 Answers 4

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The commas that are before and after the words "to our knowledge" are meant to separate that part of the sentence from the rest. You should be able to remove the words between the commas (and remove the commas) and the sentence should still make sense.

"to our knowledge" can be re-stated "as far as we know". So the author of the paper could have written "In what is, as far as we know,..." and it would have the same meaning.

The words "In what is" will refer to something in the sentence that comes after the words "to our knowledge". The words "In what is" do not mean "as far as we know".

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  • Thank you for your comment.
    – peridotite
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:02
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Having now read the full sentence, I can state that the sense is as follows:

What refers to the study that the authors have done. They mention in passing that, as far as they know, it is the largest quantified study that has ever been done on the subject.

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  • Thank you for your comment. I understand what means "what"!
    – peridotite
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:01
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Here the all sentence may be interpreted as to "Our knowledge is limited or knowledge is confined" And for confining the limits of the knowledge here, the words "in what is" has been used. So, it can be otherwise read as : "that is all, which is in our knowledge"

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  • Thank you for your comment.
    – peridotite
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:02
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It mean to imply something OED

Contained or stated by implication; involved in what is expressed; necessarily intended though not expressed: see imply v.
Often in legal phrases as implied contract (see quot. 17672), implied trust, implied warranty, etc.: see these words.

As in:

1991 Economist Dec. Those extra beats..are the ones usually accented by the drummer, in what is sometimes called the backbeat.

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  • Thank you for your comment.
    – peridotite
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:03

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