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Is whom or whose appropriate here?

The chairman in ______ private life the newspapers are so interested has nothing to hide.

  • The genitive "whose" is required here. The preposition is fronted along with the relativized element. In the relative phrase, i.e. the PP "in whose private life", it is just "whose" that has "chairman" as antecedent. The PP functions as pre-nucleus, and complement of "interested" in the nucleus clause. One influential grammar calls this 'upward percolation'. – BillJ Sep 6 '19 at 16:48
  • "Whose" is correct there. The preposition "in" is required, either before "whose" or after "interested" (i.e., "The chairman in whose private life the newspapers are so interested has..." or "The chairman whose private life the newspapers are so interested in has..."). – Benjamin Harman Sep 7 '19 at 0:02
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"Whose" works ("whom" doesn't):

The chairman in whose private life the newspapers are so interested has nothing to hide.

The rules go something like this:

  1. A relative expression is brought to the beginning of a relative clause.
  2. A relative pronoun (e.g., "whose") is a relative expression.
  3. A NP whose determiner is a relative expression is a relative expression.
  4. A PP whose object is a relative expression is a relative expression.

In your example, "in whose private life" is originally the complement of "interested" in the relative clause. "whose" is the determiner of the NP "whose private life", so this NP is a relative expression (by 2 and 3 above). The PP "in whose private life" is now a relative expression by 4 above. So this is why the PP is brought forward in the relative clause.

The movement rule 1 is constrained, like all movement rules, by Ross's movement constraints. So the LBC (Left Branch Condition) prevents deriving *"The chairman whose the newspapers are so interested in private life has nothing to hide," for instance.

There are other such rules, e.g.

  1. A NP whose head noun is a relative expression is a relative expression.

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