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I'm currently reading "A Student's Introduction to English Grammar" by Geoffrey K. Pullum and Rodney Huddleston.

I'm bewildered by the following exercise, which asks us to identify the relative phrase, along with the relative element, its function and its antecedent.

Which is the one you said you liked best?

My analysis is as follows: Which is the one [you said [you liked best]]? I treat which as part of the main clause (even though one could make a point to the contrary, I basically treat it as This in This is the one you said you liked best.

you liked best — subordinate content clause

you said you liked best — relative clause

antecedent — the one

function of the covert relativised element (in the relative clause) - direct object

Does anyone with knowledge of the CGEL (The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language) framework have any input on this? In particular, I'm interested whether Which can be considered to be the antecedent, or maybe even part of the relative clause itself.

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    Yes, though the antecedent is just the nominal "one". "Which is the one [you said [you liked __ best]]?, where the object of "liked" (the covert R element) is represented by gap. Gap is co-referenced to both "one" and "which".
    – BillJ
    May 29 at 8:16
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    There is no relative phrase as this is a 'bare' relative. The relativised element is the gap after the verb liked in the VP [liked ___ best]. Its syntactic function is direct object of the verb liked. Its antecedent is the nominal one as indicated in @Billj 's comment above. (there's no which in this relative clause, and so the gap relates directly to the antecedent not indirectly through relating to the relative word which in turn relates to the antecedent). May 29 at 13:11
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    Note carefully that the word which in the matrix clause is a distractor here!!! It is an interrogative word (more specifically an interrogative determinative heading a fused determiner-head construction). The syntactic function of this NP is subject of the matrix clause, in other words the subject of the verb is. It is completely unrelated to the relative clause! May 29 at 13:34
  • Thank you very much for your answers, both of you! @Araucaria-Nothereanymore, it seems to me that you agree with BillJ on everything, except for the fact that he mentions that the gap is co-referenced to both "one" and "which". Any specific thoughts about that? May 29 at 15:53
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    @EllipticNoob The "which" that I was referring is the fused determiner-head "which" at the beginning of the sentence.
    – BillJ
    May 29 at 16:44
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In comments Araucaria wrote:

There is no relative phrase as this is a 'bare' relative. The relativised element is the gap after the verb liked in the VP [liked ___ best]. Its syntactic function is direct object of the verb liked. Its antecedent is the nominal one as indicated in @Billj 's comment above. (there's no which in this relative clause, and so the gap relates directly to the antecedent not indirectly through relating to the relative word which in turn relates to the antecedent).

Note carefully that the word which in the matrix clause is a distractor here!!! It is an interrogative word (more specifically an interrogative determinative heading a fused determiner-head construction). The syntactic function of this NP is subject of the matrix clause, in other words the subject of the verb is. It is completely unrelated to the relative clause!

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The sentence in question is actually missing two implied relative pronouns:

Which is the one [that] you said [that] you liked best?

As I read it, the first relative clause signaled by the omitted relative pronoun "that" is an adjective clause modifying the antecedent "one." The second relative clause is a noun clause serving as the direct object of the verb "said."

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  • At first glance I thought you were right here, but on closer ispection the second that in your sentence does not introduce a relative clause. It is just the normal subordinator that optionally introduces clauses after verbs like say, think, know etc. The sentence "You said that you liked this one best" does not contain a relative clause Jun 3 at 23:29
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. I agree with you, my analysis also treats [(that) you liked best _ ] as a content clause. Jun 5 at 4:26

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