Suppose this sentence

Otherwise, if it has an ancestor which encloses the target section, another anchor within the section which shares the same ancestor is required;

Can I say it as

Otherwise, if it has an ancestor which encloses the target section, another anchor within the section is required which shares the same ancestor

Specially in passive sentences?

  • It's often the context that will determine the level of acceptability of your examples. There will often be ambiguity, w.r.t. syntax, when a head (e.g. the noun "anchor" in your examples) has more than one dependent in its phrase. Often, the heavier dependents will get moved to the rear of the phrase it's a member of; and sometimes, a dependent within a NP can get lifted out of the NP and become a clausal dependent (as was done in your 2nd example). Care has to be used by the writer to ensure that the reader doesn't get confused and doesn't mis-interpret what was written. :) – F.E. Jun 27 '15 at 21:48
  • This is typically called postposing or extraposition, depending on who you ask. I don't think it's usually referred to as dislocation, which refers to initial or final constituents like me in "Me, I like pizza" pulled out of the main clause and replaced with a pronoun. – snailplane Jun 28 '15 at 4:25

Passive or active is irrelevant.

In parsing a relative's antecedent, the reader tracks back to the first entity capable of sustaining a relative. Consequently, putting the relative anywhere except immediately after its referent makes parsing more difficult (which is a discourtesy to your reader) and makes misparsing more likely (which is damaging to your argument).

In your second example, the reader tracks back first to the entire clause another ... is required; it will take her a couple of beats to realize that a requirement is unlikely to share an ancestor. She then tracks back to section, and takes you to mean that the section must share an ancestor. She may never arrive at the referent you intend, which you have told us elsewhere is another anchor.

A relative should be placed immediately after its referent. However, that yields another anchor which shares the same ancestor within same section; this is acceptable only if it is the ancestor, not the anchor, which must be within the section.

If you cannot place your relative immediately after its referent, you will have to rewrite to ensure that a misparsing cannot occur. For instance:

Otherwise, if it has an ancestor which encloses the target section, another anchor within the section is required, an anchor which shares the same ancestor.

This is still dubious, because I don't know what is meant by an ancestor 'enclosing' a section. If an element is ancestral to every anchor within a section it 'encloses', you have defined the ancestor twice.

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  • Thank you, then you mean such dislocation are rare? or there cases where they can be occur? – Ahmad Jun 27 '15 at 18:38
  • 1
    They are not as rare as they should be; they should always be avoided. Your job as a writer is to make it as easy as possible for your reader to understand you. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 27 '15 at 18:42

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