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"The deposited material was a mixture of old reworked sediment from previous beach face deposits and what fluvial sediment that had accumulated after the last high stand."

The sentence is an example sentence from the Oxford dictionary: here.

As I understand, the sentence means that the deposited material was a mixture of two things: First, old reworked sediment from previous beach face; and second, fluvial sediment that had accumulated after the last high stand.

Can someone explain why the world "what" is used there. Would if affect the meaning of the sentence if "what" was not used?

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That usage of the word what refers to a specific subset of the noun that follows, usually used to imply a small quantity of that noun or used with a small quantity of that noun.

In another example:

Greg answered what questions he could, but the exam was for much more experienced people.

When used this way, the word what is roughly synonymous with the:

Greg answered the questions he could.

Here is the Oxford Dictionary definition for what used as a determiner:

[relative determiner] (referring to the whole of an amount) whatever. ‘he had been robbed of what little money he had’


As far as if removing what would change the meaning of the sentence, it would not really affect it. What and the are optional.

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