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More attention, however, was accorded to the abolition of serfdom in 1861 and the introduction of zemstvos, a form of communal self-government, which measures, despite their inherent faults, became a genuine focus for democratic expression

A history of Finland by Henrik Meinander

What is the meaning of "which measures" in this sentence?

I can't even decide if the word "measures" is a verb or a noun.

According to Cambridge dictionary "measure" means:

  1. (verb) to discover the exact size or amount of something
  2. (verb) to be a particular size
  3. (noun) a way of achieving something, or a method for dealing with a situation.

I can't attribute any of these meaning to the word itself in the sentence.

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  • I would say "which measures" is a dated expression if not archaic. Did you try to search dictionaries this term "which measures"?
    – banuyayi
    Oct 1, 2022 at 16:21
  • 1
    @banuyayi — the book was published in 2011. It was just poorly edited. Oct 1, 2022 at 19:41

2 Answers 2

4

This is an uncommon use of "which", but "measures" is a noun here. You'd probably think it's a verb initially because it follows "which", and that usually means "which" is a subject, and "measures" is its conjugated verb.

Let's simplify the sentence a bit without changing the grammar:

More attention was accorded to serfdom and zemstvos, [which measures] became a genuine focus for democratic expression.

Normally, you'd just see "which" in the [bracketed] part, but it's also acceptable here to add a noun after "which" that labels the antecedent of "which". In this case, "measures" labels "the abolition of serfdom" and "the introduction of zemstvos". We can only do this in non-defining relative clauses, and only with "which", not with "who". In fact, to use this structure with human antecedents, we just use "which":

I enjoyed my classes with Slantzky and Jones, which professors would eventually mentor me.
I enjoyed my classes with Slantzky and Jones, who professors would eventually co-author my book.

It would be more common today to see them phrased this way:

More attention was accorded to serfdom and zemstvos, measures which became a genuine focus for democratic expression.
I enjoyed my classes with Slantzky and Jones, professors who would eventually mentor me.

The structure here is slightly different, because the antecedent of "which" is now "measures", and the entire part after the comma is an appositive, not a relative clause.

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  • It can also be rephrased as "the measures of which"
    – justhalf
    Oct 2, 2022 at 11:10
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It's a noun. The abolition of serfdom and the introduction of zemstvos are the two 'measures' being referred to.

Merriam-Webster has:

a step planned or taken as a means to an end - 'took strong measures against the rebels-

specifically : a proposed legislative act - 'sponsored an anti-inflation measure in the senate'

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