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The glossary of the C99 Draft Standard contains this entry:

3.17.3 unspecified value:
valid value of the relevant type where this International Standard imposes no requirements on which value is chosen in any instance

I noticed that a valid value of the relevant type is not a place but it's used with where. Is it possible to use which instead of where?

And would the sentence work if where is changed to which?

3.17.3 unspecified value:
valid value of the relevant type which this International Standard imposes no requirements on which value is chosen in any instance

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No, you cannot directly substitute which instead of where. The two words serve different grammatical roles.

Which is a relative pronoun. It introduces a relative clause, and serves as the subject of that clause. (If you wrote "valid value of the relevant type which…", then "which" stands for its antecedent, "value". The antecedent could also be "type" — you would have to resolve the ambiguity from context.)

Where is a subordinating conjunction. It introduces a subordinate clause, and the clause needs a subject, which, in this case, is "this International Standard".

If you wanted to use which, you could restate the definition as

3.17.3 unspecified value:
valid value of the relevant type, which could be any value, because this International Standard imposes no requirements on which value is chosen in any instance

–or–

3.17.3 unspecified value:
valid value of the relevant type on which this International Standard imposes no requirements on the value chosen

Both alternatives are less readable. I prefer the original wording.

  • Nice explanation - but (niggle) which can have any kind of noun phrase type function within the clause, it doesn't have to be subject - it could be the object for example, or part of a preposition phrase. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 19 '14 at 18:38
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    @Araucaria You've given me another idea, which I have just added. – 200_success Oct 19 '14 at 18:44
  • Yes, but in your explanation of which it still says that which functions as the subject of the relative clause ... :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 19 '14 at 19:52
  • @Araucaria On its own, which would be interpreted as a subject. On which would make it an object of a preposition. – 200_success Oct 19 '14 at 22:10
  • If you mean in this particular sentence, in that reconstruction that's given, then yes. It sounds in your grammatical explanatory bit as though which in general functions as the subject of a clause ... Did you want that to be the case? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 20 '14 at 0:02

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