What are the structure and meaning of the following bolded phrase? I have a problem with understanding of the two phrases meaning where are connected together, "fairly close by" and "flattened out over time":

And until just recently, most of us thought the sand had come from an ancient mountain range fairly close by that flattened out over time.


Parse this as two distinct phrases modifying an ancient mountain range:

  • a locative preposition phrase fairly close by

    The internal structure is ambiguous. I think this may be historically understood as the intransitive preposition by modified by the adverb close, with the close piece further modified by the adverb fairly. But the parse is complicated by the fact that the collocations near by, far away,close by, and far off have also achieved independent standing as attributive adjectivals—they may actually stand before the noun they modify, albeit usually as the orthographic variants nearby, faraway, close-by, and far-off. Consequently close, near, far, understood as adjectives, are felt by most speakers to 'head' these phrases.

  • a relative clause that flattened out over time


... the sand had come from a nearby mountain range which had flattened out over time.

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