Submitted by rmberwin on 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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"One" refers to the real subject - "a (highly unusual) form of melody", which is a noun phrase. Take away the pronoun and you have - "It is a highly unusual form of melody that occurs only in this composer’s work".

"I frequently hear the rule that the referent has to be the prior proximate noun. " - perhaps "the prior proximate noun phrase" would be better, especially where 'of' id concerned, although perhaps without the modifiers:

"Can you bring me that box of rather delicious chocolates, the one on the kitchen table?"

"Just look at those friends of David's, the ones hanging around the school gates."

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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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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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