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In this song of Hunger Games [The hanging tree], there's this part that seems odd to me:

Are you coming to the tree, where they strung up a man they say who murdered three.

Why is "Who" used here? Is it a relative pronoun, or something similar?

I believe "who" is used to substitute "a man". However, it sounds very odd to me, since I haven't ever heard something likewise.

However, if "who" is really substituting the noun "man", does that mean I could say:

They didn't like Maria. They said who was not such forthcoming person.

Thank you in advance.

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    It's a song. Regular grammar rules do not necessarily apply. Words in song lyrics (and poetry) are often reordered to better fit the meter or rhyme scheme. Words may also be shortened, lengthened, elided (multiple words combined into one), repeated, or omitted entirely if it makes it sound better. May 29 '20 at 14:27
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They say in parenthetical:

This is a man who murdered three.

This is a man, they say, who murdered three.

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  • Oh, I got it. I thought there was the implied relative clause "That" May 29 '20 at 2:17
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    It's an awkward word order; you probably wouldn't use it in prose, but in verse the words sometimes have to be twisted slightly to fit the rhythm.
    – gidds
    May 29 '20 at 10:12
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Yes, who is a relative pronoun. By the way, the word-order here is a little confusing:

. . . they strung up a man they say who murdered three.

It suggests they may not have strung him up: it's just a rumour.

If it we change it to:

. . . they strung up a man who they say murdered three.

it means they did string him up. He was rumoured to have killed three.

In your second example:

They didn't like Maria. They said who was not such forthcoming person.

you are trying to use the relative pronoun to link to the previous sentence. Relative pronouns link one clause to another. Maria is out of reach! You need to say:

They didn't like Maria, who they said was not such a forthcoming person.

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  • I now understand it. I don't hear this type of sentence very much, that's why I found it odd. Thanks for the kind answer. May 29 '20 at 2:16
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    Why would you use "whom" here? "Whom" would usually replace "her" ("They didn't like Maria. They hated her from the start" => "They didn't like Maria, whom they hated from the start") but not "she" ("They didn't like Maria. She hated them too." => "They didn't like Maria, who hated them too."). Here the sentences being linked are "They didn't like Maria. They said she was not such a forthcoming person" - right?
    – psmears
    May 29 '20 at 11:20
  • @psmears Quite right. I'll amend it. I was thinking it was in the form "...Maria, whom they said they would kill". (It was very late!) May 29 '20 at 13:07
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In the sentence:

Are you coming to the tree, where they strung up a man they say who murdered three.

who has the same meaning of a which or a that. However, in general when we are talking about people we use the relative pronoun: who.

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    I think you mean "the relative pronoun, who". May 28 '20 at 22:47
  • Noted and fixed. Thanks!
    – tamuno
    May 28 '20 at 23:14

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