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I am not sure if this sentence is correct:

The word, from which the Polish, Ukrainian and Czech verbs 'mówić', 'мовити', 'mluvit' descend, means 'to say'.

It is certainly a restrictive clause, but normally restrictive clauses are not set off with commas, and sense would be less clear if we remove the commas before and after the clause.

What should I change to get this sentence correct?

  • I don't see why it's restrictive. We are evidently talking about a specific word (that was probably mentioned in the previous sentence; it is marked with the determiner "the"). The "from which" clause simply provides more information about this word. If we are talking about a specific word, we cannot restrict it any further. – tenebris2020 Feb 6 '18 at 13:11
  • Those commas are not the same; the first and the last serve to be the restrictive clause marker and the rest are just pauses. – Cardinal Feb 6 '18 at 13:19
  • @Cardinal Thank you for your remark, I've already corrected my question. – George Podkolzin Feb 6 '18 at 13:47
  • @tenebris2020 The word is implied. It is the only sentence in a response. Other words have already been mentioned in a dialogue, so the word 'word' is not specified otherwise than with the relative clause. – George Podkolzin Feb 6 '18 at 14:12
  • @GeorgePodkolzin It looks like a very artificial situation to me. It could probably help if you provided more information about this dialogue, and what kind of a "response" is it that only consists of this one sentence. (If it's a response to a question or something, what was the question?) It could be a quiz where someone is supposed to guess which word is meant by the speaker. At any rate, the removal of the relative clause would not make the sentence less clear; it would just not provide sufficient information. It does not make the sentence deficient; it makes the utterance deficient. – tenebris2020 Feb 6 '18 at 14:27
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Your first option would be to remove commas, which would serve as a visual clue that you want this to have a restrictive meaning ("that" and "which" are sometimes interchangeable in creating a restrictive sense).

Because if you want to keep the "from [?] .... descends", you cannot change "from which" to "from that". "From that" wouldn't work here. If you use a preposition, you need "which".

As the link above says, in AmE, "which" for restrictive clauses would generally be avoided, though not be considered incorrect. To avoid it, what you could also do is rephrase the whole sentence to say,

"The word that is the ancestor of 'mówić', 'мовити', 'mluvit' means "to say" rather than "tongue".

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