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I have a question about the word "that" in the following sentence:

nowhere is that more apparent than in unemployment figures in the United States and Japan.

This is originally from a New York Times article (to avoid the paywall, I use a short quote put on the other website):

https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/careers-finance/sns-nyt-japan-jobless-rate-low-in-crisis-20200622-u35yzfcxmfb4xanltojwaxn3ii-photogallery.html

The meaning of this sentence is not an issue. What I am a bit confused with the role of "that" in the sentence. I thought this "that" is an adverb to indicate "to that degree". However, in a discussion on a message board, other people pointed out that my interpretation would be incorrect because an adverb "that" won't work with a comparative "more". Rather, this sentence should be understood as anastrophe where "that" is the true subject of the sentence and the natural order of words is "that is more apparent nowhere than in".

I probably got it wrong but want to have native English speakers' opinions.

2 Answers 2

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The word "that" refers to the previous clause "the fallout has been much more severe in some countries than others"
It is that which is not more apparent in any other place than in unemployment figures; in other words, the unevenness of the fallout is more apparent in relative unemployment figures than anywhere else.

That is what it is talking about; it's a relative pronoun.

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  • I see. Now I think I got the point. Thanks.
    – KTDon
    Jun 23, 2020 at 5:54
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It may be more helpful to quote the passage directly, and a bit more completely. This is an excerpt from The Baltimore Sun website: 

The pandemic has devastated economies around the globe, shutting businesses and slowing spending.  However, the fallout has been much more severe in some countries than others, and nowhere is that more apparent than in unemployment figures in the United States and Japan. 

The U.S. jobless rate skyrocketed in the past three months, peaking at nearly 15% in April and standing at 13.3% in May.  That is the highest level since the Great Depression and a nearly fourfold increase since February, when the rate was 3.5%. 

In Japan, though, the number has barely budged.  The unemployment rate has ticked up just two-tenths of a percentage point since February, to 2.6%.  Wages and working hours have also remained relatively stable.

The phrasing "nowhere is that more apparent than..." does contain an inversion.  The canonical ordering would be "that is nowhere more apparent than...".  I say canonical because, as a native speaker, I find the inversion to be more natural.  The clause makes more sense when the emphasis falls on the word "nowhere".  A comparison between U.S. and Japanese figures is the most apparent example of the difference in severity.  Nowhere else is it more apparent. 

The clause in question uses the demonstrative pronoun "that".  Its antecedent is the entirety of the preceding clause.  Nowhere is it more apparent that the fallout has been much more severe in some countries than others, than in unemployment figures in the United States and Japan. 

 
I have to wonder how the meaning of the sentence is not an issue, if the role and referent of the demonstrative subject "that" are unclear. 

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  • Thanks. This is helpful to clarify what I didn't understand.
    – KTDon
    Jun 23, 2020 at 12:01

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