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From a TED talk, starting at 2:11:

In the first, we have animals that display stereotyped, predictable behaviors towards their dead, and for whom much of what we understand about them comes from experimental studies.

Why is "for whom" here? I understand structure like "for which" where the preposition is part of the set phrase that come after the relative pronoun. But here I don't see how "for" comes into play.

I don't think "and for whom much of what we understand about them comes from experimental studies" is as good as sth like " and about which/whom much of what we understand comes from experimental studies," in which I transfer "about them" into the pronoun+relative pronoun structure, whereas in the original sentence I don't see how "for whom" related to the sentence comes after.

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The phrase "for whom" means "for those animals". It's needed because what should be two independent sentences have been glued together. The whole could be put:

In the first [group], we have animals that display stereotyped, predictable behaviors towards their dead. Much of what we understand about them comes from experimental studies.

As the OP points out, just the word "and" serves to connect the two sentences as two independent clauses. The "for whom" is redundant; either "for whom" or "about them" could be omitted, but one of the two phrases is needed.

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  • but you already have the conjunction "and" to join two sentences – HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy Apr 8 at 8:19
  • Actually, you're quite right. Just the "and" works. – Jack O'Flaherty Apr 8 at 8:29
  • so isn't it redundant to say ... and for those animals much of what we understand about them – HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy Apr 8 at 8:31
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    ok, thanks. Even if we don't have "and," I don't think "and for whom much of what we understand about them comes from experimental studies" is as good as sth like " about which/whom much of what we understand comes from experimental studies," in which I transfer "about them" into the pronoun+relative pronoun structure – HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy Apr 8 at 8:39
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    I see, I just try to make sure whether what I think is correct, thanks again – HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy Apr 8 at 10:51
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"For whom" here is a reference to the animals. It might be more common to use "for which" here.

"For whom" here can be understood as meaning "where it is the case that" or "regarding whom", "in relation to whom/which" or just "where".

You also asked about redundancy. In this sentence...

In the first, we have animals that display stereotyped, predictable behaviors towards their dead, and for whom much of what we understand about them comes from experimental studies

the terms "that" and "for whom" are both relatives that restrict the scope of "animals".

However, in practice, we would interpret the sentence in exactly the same way if the term "for whom" were missing, so it is effectively redundant.

In the unlikely event that we were distinguishing between this group of animals and another that displayed these stereotyped behaviours but where our knowledge wasn't derived from experiments, then "for whom" would serve a purpose here.

The wording makes it improbable that the "for whom" only applies to a subset of the animals showing stereotyped behaviours; the comma makes it almost impossible.

It is, though, the presence of the word "and" which means that technically "for whom" is a restrictive relative (because it is parallel with the preceding "that", which is restrictive) rather than a non-restrictive one. So instead of omitting "for whom", omitting "and" is also an option (this changes this second relative to a non-restrictive one, but as discussed, that would not affect the intended meaning) - or we could omit "and for whom" altogether, and change the comma to a semi-colon.

Another option is to change "for whom" to "about whom" (or "about which") and then omit "about them".

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  • but isn't it redundant to say ... and for these animals much of what we understand about them – HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy Apr 8 at 8:23
  • @HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy More or less, yes. I have edited my answer to address this point. – rjpond Apr 8 at 8:37

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