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I wonder what makes the comma before "among them ..." correct, assuming it is so? Does listing qualify for a comma? I would have thought of using a colon not a comma. What kind of phrase is after that comma? Absolute does not begin with a preposition. I wonder if there is any rule I could follow.

Professor Lerer elucidates a number of key linguistic concepts, among them Grimm's Law, the Great Vowel Shift that swept Britain between 1400 and 1600, and the stimulating intellectual theories of Noam Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics.

Source: History of the English Language by Seth Lerer

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I believe that "among them" in your examples begins a parenthetical expression. This can be verified by removing the phrase.

Professor Lerer elucidates a number of key linguistic concepts.

This is a grammatically correct and complete sentence, it just lacks some of the details of the original.

We can also rephrase the sentence so the phrase is in the middle rather than at the end.

A number of key linguistic concepts -- among them Grimm's Law, the Great Vowel Shift, and the stimulating intellectual theories of Noam Chomsky -- will be discussed in Professor Lerer's lecture.

In this case I decided to use dashes to offset the phrase, but commas or parentheses would also be reasonable choices. All of these indicate that in speaking, there would be a slight pause on either side of the parenthetical. There are slight differences in emphasis between the choices, but their meaning is the same.

As far as punctuation for surrounding parentheticals, commas, parentheses, and dashes are all acceptable, though they may differ slightly in what kind of emphasis is placed on the phrase.

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