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A sentence from an ACT English:

His 1984 album Buscando América is a call for reform, which Blades believed would be possible only if Panama were freed from then dictator Manuel Noriega's oppressive regime. Blades believed this

I think the sentence should've written as " call for reform, which, Blades believed, would be possible" in which " Blades believed" serves as a parenthesis and the antecedent "reform" is used as the subject in the relative clause.

However, if let the sentence as it is, I cannot exactly tell what does the antecedent "reform" serve in the relative clause, subject in the object clause following "believed"? I think it cannot be used that way.

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The example is complex, so I'll make a simpler example

I saw a cow, which John thought was fat.

Here it is clear that John thought the cow was fat. I'm not trying to apply an strict "rule" of reordering the words, I'm just looking at the meaning.

Similarly in your example

Blades believed [reform] would be possible only if Panama were freed from then dictator Manuel Noriega's oppressive regime.

"Reform" is the subject of the clause following "believed". "Believe" and "think" are a class of verbs that can be followed by subordinate finite clauses.

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  • Sorry, I still have some doubt, is it right to say that antecedent "reform" does not, as it always does, act as an object or subject in the relative clause, but rather the subject of the subordinate finite clauses within the relative clause? However, I am not sure that works for relative clauses. Oct 7 '20 at 8:10
  • It works exactly as I described in my answer. Look at the simpler example. Look at the original example. The syntax is unambiguous.
    – James K
    Oct 7 '20 at 19:26
  • Since the case, I think, is rare, I want to know what are any other similar cases where an antecedent plays roles other than the object or subject of a relative clause? Oct 8 '20 at 2:27

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