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I have a sentence:

So admired were these pieces that they encouraged the development of earthenware made in imitation of porcelain and instigated research into the method of their manufacture.

I can't find structure of it. Does "So" in here mean 'too/so much/many'? or is it part of 'so..that'?

What is the structure of "admired were these pieces"? Adj+verb+noun!?

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    It looks to me like a kind of fronting (moving a syntactic element from its "natural" position to the front of an utterance). The natural phrasing would be These pieces were so admired that they blah blah (or ...were admired so much...). It's a poetic/literary device, not common in normal conversational contexts. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 17 '17 at 18:51
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It's an type of inversion. Moving that syntactic element to the front of a sentence has an effect of emphasis. The writer wants to emphasize "so admired" in this case.

Another example:

So angry was he that he couldn’t speak.

The normal order is:

He was so angry that he couldn’t speak.

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  • In the formal writing, Is it common? which is more preferable? adj+so that or so+adj+that – mahdi_12167 Nov 18 '17 at 5:40
  • I think it's like what @FumbleFingers said: "It's a poetic/literary device, not common in normal conversational contexts." – dan Nov 18 '17 at 5:57
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So admired were these pieces that they encouraged the development of earthenware made in imitation of porcelain and instigated research into the method of their manufacture.

"So" is a degree adverb (not unlike "very") modifying "admired".

The phrase "so admired" has been preposed (fronted), no doubt to serve as a link to the preceding discourse. Preposing expressions with so + noun/adjective is fairly uncommon and found mainly in formal discourse/textbooks/literary works etc.

Preposing certain elements like this triggers subject-auxiliary inversion: the basic order would be These pieces were so admired that they encouraged ... .

Note also that the complement clause that they encouraged the development of earthenware ... . is licensed (specifically permitted) by the so that modifies admired. Complements like this are called 'indirect complements' because although they follow the head word, it is not the head word that licenses them.

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