The pronoun forms of who and which seem to be used more 'randomly' nowadays than Oxford English would allow.

Which of the two is more correct. To my somewhat British ears, which is often used in such cases in colloquial everyday English. However, I would advocate the use of 'who' since refers to the individuals and all individuals are referred to, not only a selection.

THE SENTENCE IN QUESTION:

There are at least a handful of individuals into who(m) / which the spirit incorporates?

NOTE: This sentence refers to a given spirit manifesting/entering into a human's body.

UPDATE:
Regarding the definition of 'incorporate into' in the classical EN dictionaries, it would not be correct to say something incorporates into somthing. However, when talking about spirits and mediums, it seems to be accepted terminology. Because when checking through Google Books, there are various authors who have used this expression in this sense.

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    It is normal to use "who(m)" with human heads, not "which", and since "individuals" refers to a number of humans, it seems reasonable to use "who" (or "whom"). We understand that the spirit incorporates into at least a handful of individuals. Note that this appears to be a special use of the word "incorporate", having to do with 'mediums' and psychic powers. – BillJ Nov 17 at 16:16
  • @BillJ even mediums who claim psychic powers should use good English. A spirit cannot incorporate. A spirit can, though, enter a body, in that parlance. – Lambie Nov 17 at 16:36
  • @Lambie - good input, I will have contemplate this. The problem is that what I'm trying to say is that the spirit manifests in the medium - it is not the medium that incorporates the spirit. I might be brazen and use 'the spirit incorporates into the medium' ... are there better terms than 'enter', 'manifest', possibly 'crystallise', etc.? – johann_ka Nov 17 at 16:45
  • @BillJ - This is my website and I want to improve the bad wording. But I'm pretty sure that I have read something along the lines 'the spirit incorporates into the medium' somewhere and not only once. I will check this. – johann_ka Nov 17 at 16:50
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    Oh I see - you wrote the article to which I linked. Why didn't you say so in the first place? Just use "whom". – BillJ Nov 17 at 16:58

Whether to use which or in which or out of which or of whom or in whom etc. depends on the main verb. It has nothing to do with BrE versus AmE.

So, the verb incorporate is followed by in or into.

One incorporates some thing into something else.

For example, "He incorporated additional colours into the mix."

I don't think one would say "the spirit is incorporated into individuals". A spirit does not incorporate.

If one is describing individuals and the idea of spirit, one might say:

individuals who have accepted the spirit [in a spiritual sense].

An individual into whom a spirit has entered. [psychic powers lingo]

  • Thanks for your valuable input. But the question is not the prepositions but simply which or who. – johann_ka Nov 17 at 16:37
  • individuals into whom, using your lingo. So, neither who nor which. – Lambie Nov 17 at 16:43
  • "whom" would be the formal form according to all classical EN dictionaries. Wouldn't it sound too posh? – johann_ka Nov 17 at 16:49
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    @johann_ka: we still use whom often when who/whom falls directly after a preposition. – Peter Shor Nov 17 at 17:25

[Edit] The original text uses a very specific meaning of "incorporate", as in this excerpt:

Before Dr. Fritz started to incorporate into Kleber Aran he incorporated in a few select individuals. The first and also most popular was José Arigo (José Pedro de Freitas).

In this case the literal "spirit" (ghost) of Dr. Fritz has "entered into" the body of some person, and "incorporate" is perfectly acceptable term. Note that "embody" can also work, (although it tends to mean something else when used in this kind of context).

Note this is often called "channeling" as in some person channels some spirit .. but again that's slightly different from what is implied by "incorporate". However, this is all jargon used by psychics, mediums, and other mystical practitioners. Jargon does not necessarily have the same meaning among everyone in the field, and (without context) may sound strange to anyone unfamiliar with the field.

The use of who vs. which is a matter of style, and possibly dialect. There is no right or wrong, so it's kind of a pointless argument.

Certainly some dialects might prefer one over the other, but language changes over time, and even the most formal of modern dialects would probably be considered intolerably rude by formal English speakers of a century ago. Arguments over what is proper all depend on who you're speaking to.

However -- in this particular case we're talking about the embodiment of a spirit into a human being, and I personally think "who" is the best option:

There are only a handful of individuals into whom this spirit has chosen to incorporate.

  • Well, OK, but the wording in the original article (like it or not) was exactly as the OP stated. See here: link – BillJ Nov 17 at 16:49
  • @BillJ Ah, well that is a different meaning of the word "incorporate", and perfectly correct in that context. – Andrew Nov 17 at 16:52
  • @Andrew - Thanks for confirming that 'incorporate into' can be used in this way, which would be incorrect if one strictly goes by the definition in the classical EN dictionaries. – johann_ka Nov 17 at 16:57
  • Oh dear - we all seem to be wasting our time here. The article I Iinked to was written by the OP! – BillJ Nov 17 at 17:00
  • @johann_ka The dictionary is simply incomplete, and often doesn't include the use of terms as jargon specific to a field. In this case there are a great many terms that describe various kinds of spiritual possession, and you have to be careful to use terms your audience will understand. We could get into a long discussion of this -- for example, my wife prefers "inhabit" to "incorporate", because the latter invokes either business or funerals. But I'm fine with "incorporate" as it invokes the Latin roots. – Andrew Nov 17 at 17:21

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