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In the following sentence, the relative clause consists of two verb phrases, but the relative pronoun "which" is only related to the first. Do you think it's correct in contemporary English? It possbily violates what is known as the Coordinate Structure Constraint.

Henry was standing on the edge of the cliff, towards which his enemies were advancing and aiming to push him into the abyss.

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    Why would it not be correct? Why does it matter if it's contemporary English? Do you think it' used to be correct in the past, but isn't now? Note that your analysis is wrong. Which is related only to the edge of the cliff: (1) his enemies were advancing on the edge of the cliff, and (2) his enemies were aiming to push him into the abyss from the edge of the cliff. Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 3:44
  • No, your analysis is wrong. "Toward which," if restored into the relative clause, relates only to the first verb phrase: His enemies were advancing toward the edge of the cliff and aiming to push hin into the abyss.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 4:01
  • It's elided: the edge of the cliff [from which his enemies were] aiming to push him into the abyss. If you think you know how it should be analyzed, then why have you asked the question? Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 4:03
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    I am looking for answers by someone knowledgeable about English syntax. The sentence in question possibly violates the Coordinate Structure Constraint.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 4:04
  • You are confusing meaning with syntax.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 4:10

1 Answer 1

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Yes, it does violate that. Because the sentences tries to use two verbs with different predicates and then adds an extra object in the second one.

You can have: x towards which his enemies were aiming and advancing.

BUT not: enemies were advancing + aiming to push him into the abyss.

But this works: towards which his enemies were advancing to push him into the abyss below.

What is actually violates is parallel structure.

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