​In this following context, what does the word 'which' refer to?

Does it refer to the word 'Pali Buddhism'?

Does the word 'pages' refer to somethings from 'Pali Buddhism'?

How should I take this bold and italic sentence simply?

The context

WE have so far gained some idea of the history and scope of that Pali Buddhism to a limited study of which these pages are confined. We must now come to closer grips with those inductions and ideals in this Pali Buddhism, which will one day, despite the slenderly based criticism that would rob them of all originality, be considered as a positive contribution to the history of philosophy.

Source: "Buddhism" P. 48


2 Answers 2


Sometimes a relative word like which or who represents a word inside a preposition phrase. When this happens, we can move the whole preposition phrase to the front of the relative clause, or we can just move the wh-word and leave the rest of the preposition phrase at the end of the clause:

  • the elephant which she was sitting on
  • the elephant on which she was sitting

In the Original Poster's (OP's) example, the word which is inside a preposition phrase, which is inside another preposition phrase:

  • [of which]
  • [to a limited study [of which]]

The author has decided to move the whole larger preposition phrase with the word which. This makes the sentence rather difficult to understand, and it would have to be said with a particular intonation to make it work in speech.

It would have been easier to understand this sentence if the author had just moved the word which on its own, and left the rest of the preposition phrases at the end of the relative clause!!! Consider:

  • that Pali Buddhism which these pages are confined to a limited study of.

Here it is easier to see that the word which refers to that Pali Buddhism.

  • 2
    +1 Thank you, Mrs Rhys Davids, but when I want to see a contortionist, I'll go to the Cirque de Soleil. Aug 19, 2023 at 11:20
  • 1
    The author appears to be going to great lengths to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. Which is a shame because it renders the sentence nearly incomprehensible.
    – nschneid
    Aug 19, 2023 at 15:08
  • @nschneid Ah, of course, that's why. Aug 20, 2023 at 12:54

Which refers to the 'inductions and ideals' (it must be something plural because of the reference to they later in the sentence).

These pages means 'this book'. The author is saying that the book is a limited (short?) study of Buddhism, and she has so far talked about its history and scope.

  • I think the question is about the "which" in the first sentence.
    – nschneid
    Aug 19, 2023 at 15:05

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