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[2iii] It was a secret, of which no one knows.
​= [2iv] No one knows of this secret. (NOT: No one of this secret knows.)

In his answer above, why did Damkerng T. eliminate

No one of this secret knows.

? Why can't this possibility be deduced from the original pied-piped sentence?

Analogy

I reckon "No one of this secret knows." is one of the possible 2 ambiguities. Why? Just consider this analogous sentence #6!

  1. It was an (frivolous) organization, of which no one thinks seriously.

This is ambiguous as it can mean 6.1 and/or 6.2.

6.1. No member [of this organization] thinks seriously.

To wit — all members of this organization are wacky, and are unable to think rationally.

AND

6.2. No one thinks seriously [of this organization].

To wit — everyone knows that this organization is a joke. But 6.2 says nothing about whether its members are brainy or brainless!

5
  • 1
    Your interpretation (6.i) doesn't make sense. To convey that meaning, (6) would have to read It was a frivolous organisation, no member of which thought seriously. (If it no longer exists, the members should be referred to in the past tense.) Neither does someone of a secret make any sense. Aug 14, 2022 at 16:03
  • @KateBunting Can you please propose other words that fit this syntax? Please propose a better example?
    – user8712
    Aug 15, 2022 at 1:03
  • I'm not sure what you are asking. The original sentence is about knowing of a secret (knowing about it) and the two words can't be separated. "no one of a secret" is meaningless. Aug 15, 2022 at 7:34
  • @KateBunting What do you think of my analogy?
    – user8712
    Aug 15, 2022 at 9:07
  • Neither sentence is ambiguous, because your supposed 'other meanings' don't make sense. Aug 15, 2022 at 9:44

1 Answer 1

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There is no ambiguity.

To 'know of' something means to have knowledge of it. So, to know of a secret means you have knowledge of that secret. In modern speech, we are just as likely to say we know 'about' it.

'Which' is a determiner and a pronoun, so it should be clear what it refers to. In this example, the secret is the subject mentioned from the start, and it's obvious that 'which' is referring back to that.

The sentence could be understood as:

  • It was a secret no one knew about.

or

  • No one knew of the secret.

Sorry to say your analogy just doesn't make any sense. If you think it's ambiguous because you're comparing it with phrases like "the secret of [x]" (where [x] is the subject) you're ignoring the fact that there is a comma right after the word 'secret'. Remember that 'which' is used to add extra information to a previous clause, in particular after a comma.

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  • "Sorry to say your analogy just doesn't make any sense." What do you mean? Sentences 6.1 and 6.2 are felicitous.
    – user8712
    Aug 15, 2022 at 9:08
  • @user they may be grammatically correct sentences but they are in no way possible meanings of the sentence in question.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 15, 2022 at 10:23

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