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He’s not the first one I’ve known who’s gone funny over a girlfriend.
(The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith)

He’s not the first one [I’ve known [who’s gone funny over a girlfriend]].

The sentence seems like “Matrix clause [Relative clause [Content clause]].” And there is a subject, who, in the content clause. After this analysis, ‘who’ might be an interrogative, not a relative, I thought. But I still can’t wipe out a thought that ‘who’ might be a relative, for it seems like ‘who’ is a relative and its antecedent is ‘one.’ Which is proper?

(1) Matrix clause + Relative clause + Content clause ('one' and 'who' is not the same)
(2) Matrix clause + Relative clause 1 + Relative clause 2 (both 1 and 2 have the same antecedent)

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    I think it makes more sense to parse it like this: He’s not [ [ the first one I’ve known ] [ who’s gone funny over a girlfriend. ] ] – Damkerng T. Sep 26 '14 at 9:16
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At first blush, it seems that your parse with description "(2)" is reasonable. Though, I think that there might or could be a nesting of the two relatives. (Note: The 2002 CGEL seems to prefer a different way of parsing, which they call stacking. See bottom of post.)

Here is how I'm currently seeing the parse:

  1. He’s not the first one(h) [ I’ve known __(h)(i) [ who(i) has gone funny over a girlfriend ] ].

which is basically the same as your parse, except that I've made the gap explicit and also put in some co-indexing.

Let's look at the subordinate clause, which has its own relative, first:

  1. I’ve known __(i) [ who(i) has gone funny over a girlfriend ]

which is similar in structure to this,

  1. I’ve known a person(i) [ who(i) has gone funny over a girlfriend ]

The difference between these last two versions (#2 and #3) is that the antecedent for the relative pronoun "who" is gap "i" in #2 while in #3 it is the word "person". And so, in #2, it appears that the relative pronoun "who" is co-indexed with gap "i" in the clause "I've known __".

That gap "i" has an antecedent. And so, let's now look at the matrix clause and the first relative clause:

  1. He’s not the first one(h) [ (that) I’ve known __(h) ]

The relative clause could be seen as meaning something like "I've known someone", but that meaning is incomplete. The meaning gets completed by the other relative clause "who has gone funny over a girlfriend". And so, that produces the parse that we started with:

  1. He’s not the first one(h) [ I’ve known __(h)(i) [ who(i) has gone funny over a girlfriend ] ].

.

CAVEAT: It is possible that there might be other reasonable ways to parse your example, and it is also possible that a different parse might be preferable over the one that was given in this post.

NOTE: There is a strong preference against the use of wh-relatives in sentences similar to yours, which involves superlative modifiers in the antecedent. That is, there is a very strong preference for the use of "that" or nothing at all for the relative word here in your example.

In the 2002 CGEL, in subsection "Nominals with superlative modifiers: non-wh preferred", page 1054:

  • [65.ii] You should take the first appointment [ that is available ].

where they say: "There's a very strong preference for the non-wh type here, …"

Though, a more relevant example for this thread could be "She was the best girlfriend (that) I've ever had."

.

= = = = = = = = = = NEW INFO = = = = = = = = = =

It seems that the 2002 CGEL might be preferring a different kind of parsing, which they call stacking. That is:

  1. He’s not the [ [first one] (h) [ I’ve known __(h) ] ] (i) [ who(i) has gone funny over a girlfriend ].

where the the first relative clause ("I've known __") combines with its antecedent ("first one") to form a larger unit which is then the antecedent for the second relative clause ("who has gone funny over a girlfriend").

CGEL, page 1060-1, subsection "Stacking possible only with integrated relatives":

  • [9.i] I like those [ ties [you wear] ] [that your sister knits for you].

In [9.i] the antecedent "ties" combines with "you wear" (1st relative) to form what is then used as the antecedent for "that your sister knits for you" (2nd relative).

Aside: I think this is basically what another member had suggested in a comment under the OP's post:

  • "I think it makes more sense to parse it like this: He’s not [ [ the first one I’ve known ] [ who’s gone funny over a girlfriend. ] ] – Damkerng T. 16 hours ago"

So, perhaps use 2002 CGEL's parse. :)

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  • 1
    I think it might be parsed like this: He's not the first [[one(i)][ who(i) has gone funny over a girlfriend]](ii) [I've known ____ (ii) ]. I think in the OP's example the first relative clause there might been extraposed from the smaller Noun Phrase to the end (where it will receive more focus). There's not much info or in, or reason to emphasise, I have known. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Sep 28 '14 at 13:10
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    F.E. I think yesterday, when I didn't put in any bracketing, you thought I meant ... girlfriend(i) I have known (i). I didn't! :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Sep 28 '14 at 13:10
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He is not the first one whom I have known who has gone funny over a girlfriend.

The word whom can be omitted.

You could also say:

He's not the first one I've known to go funny over...

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