Submitted by rmberwin  •  June 29, 2012

Referent of “one”

In the sentence “It is a highly unusual form of melody, one that occurs only in this composer’s work”, what is the referent of the pronoun ‘one’? Is it ‘melody’ or the entire prepositional phrase ‘form of melody’? Or, perhaps the referent is the subject of the sentence, ‘it’? I frequently hear the rule that the referent has to be the prior proximate noun.

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That's generally true, but a noun isn't always just one word. "Melody" is a noun, and so is "form," but "form of melody" is also a noun. In this case, it's the referent of the pronoun "one."

There's also the musical context; a melody only ever appearing in one composer's work would be unremarkable.

Maybe this is why the Germans like to bunch up all their nounphrases into newwords.

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Although I agree generally with dave's response, to be more accurate I would say "form of melody" is a noun (not prepositional) phrase to which "one" refers.

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