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Any help with understanding this sentence would be really appreciated. Here is the sentence:

No one could have predicted a new offshore race for natural resources, or changing alliances in which Turkey would abandon its long-time friend, Israel, which in turn would seek a partnership with the Republic of Cyprus.

What I haven't understood from this sentence is who was going to seek a partnership with the Republic of Cyprus? Is there a relative clause in the sentence that I didn't get and what does "which" refer to?

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  • Strip it down to basic elements: [some situation] ... in which Turkey would ... seek a partnership with the Republic of Cyprus. (Mod note: The community seems to think this has not analyzed the sentence correctly) – Davo Apr 4 '17 at 21:14
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    "Israel" is the antecedent of "which in turn would seek..." Israel is seeking the partnership – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 4 '17 at 21:23
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    @Davo, that's incorrect. Turkey isn't forming an alliance with Cyprus -- Israel is. In any case, Cyprus is not very friendly with Turkey so any alliance is pretty unlikely. – Andrew Apr 4 '17 at 21:48
  • @Andrew if we start off with what the sentence imply us, wouldn't you agree with Davo I guess you are assessing the meaning of the sentnce with what you know about the realationship between turkey and cyprus. For your information, There are Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Greek republic of cyprus in the island which is not recognised by any states except turkey. – Ufuk Caglayan Apr 4 '17 at 21:58
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    @UfukCaglayan certainly knowing something about international politics helps to parse a sentence, but in this case it's just extra information. The sentence isn't that complicated. – Andrew Apr 4 '17 at 22:39
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The pronoun "which", when used as a conjunction, normally refers to the closest previous noun. So the first "which" refers to "changing alliances", and the second (most likely) refers to "Israel".

The phrase "in turn" indicates that part of the sentence will describe two separate but similar actions by two different subjects. For example:

Alice gave the shoes to Betty, who in turn gave them to Christy.

Because of this, I don't expect Turkey to be the subject of the second action, since it is the subject of the first action.

Note that we can infer that Turkey and Cyprus are not friendly, since otherwise it would not be surprising that Israel formed a relationship with them only after breaking with Turkey. But that's more about logic than about grammar.

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    thank you , that explanation is been really helpful. I guess in turn has an important role in this sentence. – Ufuk Caglayan Apr 4 '17 at 22:56
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    @UfukCaglayan: its role is not that important. The sentence is very clear, with or without it: the final "which" refers to Israel. There is no other possible interpretation. – TonyK Apr 4 '17 at 23:37
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Parsing the referent of a relative clause usually involves backing up to the nearest semantically consistent entity—usually the immediately preceding entity.

In this case the relative which is taken to refer to the immediately preceding NP 'its long-time friend Israel'; and that reference is validated by the in turn adverbial: Turkey abandanoned its alliance with Israel and Israel in turn formed an alliance with Cyprus, which for decades has been hostile to Turkey.

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  • So, according the your explanation, I should understand from the last part of your sentence implies that cyprus has been hostile to turkey." which" in you sentence refers to cyprus, am I right ? =) – Ufuk Caglayan Apr 4 '17 at 22:44
  • @UfukCaglayan That's exactly right. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 5 '17 at 10:34
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No one could have predicted a new offshore race for natural resources, or changing alliances in which Turkey would abandon its long-time friend, Israel, [which in turn would seek a partnership with the Republic of Cyprus].

In the bracketed relative clause, the subject is realised by relative "which", which I don't think there's much doubt is anaphoric to the NP "Israel". We understand that Israel in turn would seek a partnership with the Republic of Cyprus.

Unlike integrated (defining) relatives, supplementary (non-defining) relatives like this one don’t modify an antecedent; instead they refer to some element in the clause called the 'anchor'. In your example, the relative clause is supplement to NP "Israel", which also happens to be the anchor.

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