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This is a paragraph generally describing the characteristics of an ISTJ person:

As an ISTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you take things in via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion. Your secondary mode is external, where you deal with things rationally and logically.

Source: http://www.personalitypage.com/ISTJ.html

I've checked the meaning of the word 'where' in many dictionaries but I couldn't find the correct meaning of that word in this context. For me, I guess 'where' in the paragraph means 'which means', or I can rewrite these sentences like:

As an ISTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, which means you take things in via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion. Your secondary mode is external, which means you deal with things rationally and logically.

Is my guess correct? Could you explain more and give some examples like this?

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    This is a great question! It urged me to look up several dictionaries and I had to review many grammar books. I'm now feeling that fundamental words such as where and other words like be, have, a, and, the, etc., are not explained in a way that is satisfactory enough. I'm now thinking that this where is a relative pronoun being used as a conjunction. I think I'd post an answer once I can organize my thoughts better. – Damkerng T. Feb 9 '14 at 13:11
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    When I said "are not explained in a way that is satisfactory enough", I meant in those dictionaries. In my opinion, these words are much better explained in grammar books. – Damkerng T. Feb 9 '14 at 13:18
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Your sentences,

As an ISTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you take things in via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion. Your secondary mode is external, where you deal with things rationally and logically.

though still convey a roughly similar idea when those where's being rephrased as which means, the meaning would change. It might be easier to understand your sentences like this:

As an ISTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally. It's the mode where you take things in via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion. Your secondary mode is external. It's the mode where you deal with things rationally and logically.


The word where's in your sentence are used as relative pronouns (also known as subordinate conjunctions). Most grammar books discuss only that, who, whom, which, when it comes to relative pronouns. However, Collins COBUILD English Grammar mentions that when and where can be used as relative pronouns in non-defining relative clauses:

8.104 'When' and 'where' are used in non-defining clauses.

I want to see you at 12 o'clock, when you go to your lunch.
Dan's fondest memory is of last year, when the club gave a tea party for the Queen Mother.
He came from Herne Bay, where Lally had once spent a holiday.
She carried them up the stairs to the art room, where the brushes and paints had been set out.

To make the term "non-defining relative clause" clear, here is how the term is defined in the book, under entry 8.85:

Non-defining relative clauses give further information which is not needed to identify the person, thing, or group you are talking about. For example, if you say 'I saw Kylie Minogue', it is clear who you mean. But you might want to add more information about Kylie Minogue, so you might say, for example, 'I saw Kylie Minogue, who was staying at the hotel opposite'. In this sentence, 'who was staying at the hotel opposite' is a non-defining relative clause.

He was walking to the girl, who was running along the platform.
He walked down to Broadway, the main street of the town, which ran parallel to the river.

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    You can think of it as an abstract place, I believe. A similar example that is apt to our question is, for example, this sentence: "E = mc^2, where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light". You can read it as "E equals m c squared. It's an equation where E is energy, ..." – Damkerng T. Feb 10 '14 at 14:59
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    Your Tokyo example is great, and your reasoning is correct. When I wrote about an "abstract place", I didn't use it as a grammatical term, what I wanted was to invite you to think of it (the mode, or the equation) as a place in an abstract sense. And I'd say that you already did that with your Tokyo example (by thinking of her saying as a place). Though the primary sense of "where" is about place, it's common to use it beyond just a place. ... – Damkerng T. Feb 11 '14 at 9:24
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    ... Some dictionaries hint such a usage by saying "situation" or "condition", e.g. www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/where, 1.3 in or to what situation or condition: 'just where is all this leading us?' – Damkerng T. Feb 11 '14 at 9:27
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    I also found a good explanation, where we can think of our "where" as a substitute for "in which". According to thefreedictionary.com/where, there is a usage note: "Usage: It was formerly considered incorrect to use where as a substitute for in which after a noun which did not refer to a place or position, but this use has now become acceptable: we now have a situation where/in which no further action is needed" – Damkerng T. Feb 11 '14 at 9:27
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    I've been following this. Would like any addl significant info posted... – CoolHandLouis Feb 12 '14 at 20:00
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As an ISTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you take things in via your five senses

I would say the clearest expression for "where" in the above sentence would be: ...,a mode in which you take things in via your five senses.

and I think that "a mode where" is possible or even shorter "where". I doubt whether dictionaries do really analize every use of where in such detailed manner that you can find this special use of "where".

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Another way you could use the example instead of "where": As an ISTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, in which you take things in via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion. Your secondary mode is external, in which you deal with things rationally and logically.

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I am the author of the sentences you're discussing above; I've come across this while looking for something else and became interested in your discussion.

The word "where" in these sentences cannot be replaced by "which means." It could be replaced by "in which" without altering the meaning to the extent of making the new sentence incorrect, but "where" is what I really want to say. The mind maintains a physical focus that is either internal or external at any given moment. Our brain focuses on objects of thought that are either external to our selves or within our own minds. The location of these thoughts is an important part of the concept of introversion and extraversion; it is absolutely key to the whole theory of Psychological Types. The "where" is important. I realize that I did not explain this thoroughly within the short sentences that begin each profile, and I did not intend to, I wanted only to introduce the concept in a way that was accurate, and explain it more thoroughly later. That said, if anyone thinks of a better way to introduce the idea accurately, I'd love to hear it! Best, Brenda

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    Or rather, more accurately, the location of the "object" of these thoughts is critical. obviously the thinking process is not happening independently of the mind. – user3486363 Jan 10 '17 at 4:57
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I submitted this answer after an answer was selected "correct".
(I've been researching this since it was first posted.)


PART 1 - MBTI Semantics - This section focuses on MBTI semantics to help understand the sentences.

ORIGINAL SENTENCES
S1: As an ISTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you take things in via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion.
S2: Your secondary mode is external, where you deal with things rationally and logically.

S1 describes introverted sensing from the IS-J relationships:

S1.0: As an ISTJ,
S1.1: your primary mode of living [PERCEIVING] is focused internally [INTROVERT],
S1.2: where [where the prior MBTI stuff indicates that from your perceiving function...]
S1.3: you take things in [PERCEIVING] via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion [SENSING].

S2 describes extraverted thinking from the I-TJ relationships:

S2.1: Your secondary mode [DECISIONS aka JUDGING] is external [EXTROVERT],
S2.2: where [where the prior MBTI stuff indicates that from your decision function...]
S2.3: you deal with things [DECISIONS/JUDGING] rationally and logically [THINKING].

Above, I've given a rough translation of 'where', retaining its 'abstract-place' relationship to both the prior and following clause:

  • "where the prior MBTI stuff indicates that from your perceiving function...".

This could be reworded to include your original interpretation of 'where=meaning' while retaining the location function:

  • "where the prior MBTI stuff means that from your perceiving function..."

I'm going to argue that the original sentences S1 and S2 are poorly written, attempting to create an odd compromise between clarity and conciseness; they do not contain enough information to be clear, yet they could be more concise. Both of the above sentences can be stated concisely in a single combined sentence I'll call S3:

  • S3: As an ISTJ, you have (1) introverted sensing and (2) extraverted thinking.

This excludes some pseudo-semantic information; to really understand the "semantics" of the original sentences requires a broad understanding of MBTI theory-space. I'm not saying S3 is "better" than S1 or S2. Obviously, the original author didn't want such a dry definition-sounding introduction. But the end result is S1 and S2 are muddled.

Compare with the following directions: "Just go down that road until you see the fork in the road before Mrs. Smith's house, where you'll veer right and then take a left on the road between John and Kerry's land." The sentence is grammatically correct, but if you're just passing through the town, you don't know any more than you started. You cannot know the location of "where" (or the functional meaning of the sentence) without already-having (or acquiring) missing information. You need to know more about the map/model.

The following link is a pretty good explanation of the MBTI concepts of "introverted sensing", "extraverted thinking", and similar combinations.

PART 2 - Grammar

In S1 and S2, the word 'where' is functioning as a relative pronoun or relative adverb to refer to (abstract) places in both the prior and following clauses. This creates a non-restrictive relative clause (aka non-defining relative clause). But what place? I believe the author is trying to sum up a lot of the MBTI theory in two sentences to be concise. The author understands what this means, but it's not much help for the reader. The 'where' is referencing somewhere in the MBTI model-space from the prior clause and relating to the MBTI model-space in the next clause. The MBTI theory is multi-dimensional, while language is linear, so this style of explaining complex relationships is vague at best and misleading at worst. The sentences are simply poor style.

This "poor style" judgement of mine is relative. The question is, "who is the reader"? If we assume the reader to have a very high level of MBTI-knowledge, the sentences are fine. I think the sentences made perfect sense to the author (or someone that deeply understands the MBTI model) because all the gaps can be filled in. The 'abstract where' is partially in the prior sentence, but also external - in MBTI model-space.

Why does the use of 'where' make sense to native speakers? Sentences like these seem to make sense intuitively to native language speakers, but they often don't understand “why”. There is not much literature I could find on the use of 'where' with sentential, non-defining parallel clauses. Most examples have more simple and clear antecedents like this: "I went to Paris, where I enjoyed the food."

I think 'where' works intuitively because of the directional words at the end of the clause. However, I don't think the antecedent of the "where" is only referring to such. The following sentences may give some insight:

  • Fire shoots inwards, where it frizzles the gizzle. (OK)
  • As a WXYZ, fire shoots inwards, where it frizzles the gizzle. (OK)
  • Fire shoots inwards as a WXYZ, where it frizzles the gizzle. (LESS GOOD because the 'where' clause is separated from the location indicator 'inwards'.)
  • Fire shoots fast, where it frizzles the gizzle. (BAD. 'fast' doesn't provide a location and abstract fire does not have a location. On the other hand, if someone were saying this and pointing to a burning chamber, it would be OK.)
  • The fire shoots fast, where it frizzles the gizzle. (OK BUT MORE COMPLEX. The article 'the' indicates a particular fire. One would have to think, "The location of the fast-shooting fire frizzles the gizzle."
  • Something moves somewhere, where it does something else. (OK. 'somewhere' provides a location.)

The “Random Idea English” blog has an excelllent article on non-defining relative clauses.
Also, see this very funny article called “Escaped Relatives” (warning: intended for native or fluent english speakers).


I think there is much more that could be said about this in terms of linguistics. There might be an opportunity here for a linguist to evaluate the use of "where" in non-restrictive relative clauses in which 'where' refers (at least in part) to some model-space outside of the immediate text.

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    Ok I'm finished with this answer. Thanks for being patient! – CoolHandLouis Feb 14 '14 at 0:07
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    doquan0, I think you'll like some of the info I provided in this late-answer. – CoolHandLouis Feb 14 '14 at 18:41
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    @DamkerngT - You might be interested in my thoughts about 'where' pointing (in part) to MBTI model-space. The "directions analogy" I gave is a good analogy. – CoolHandLouis Feb 14 '14 at 18:47
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    It took me a rather long time to read this answer. (And I think I will come back to read in again soon.) After this question, I've got an idea that could explain why "where" is natural (to native speakers. It's because it's highly relevant to the sense of "in". For example, I can rephrase S1 like this: As an ISTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally. In this mode, you take things in via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion. – Damkerng T. Feb 14 '14 at 19:01
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    @Damkerng - See above, paragraph beginning in bold, I think 'where' works intuitively because of the directional words at the end of the clause. – CoolHandLouis Feb 14 '14 at 19:23

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