I am trying to analyse the sentence:

Building land is a plot of land in relation to which a construction permit has been issued.

and my question is - what type of subordinated clause is introduced by the phrase/conjunction in relation to which? And is this conjunction somehow different from other subordinating conjunctions?

I would like to read more about this specific phrase/conjunction, but I can not found any book or article about it, of course, there are a lot of articles and books about traditional subordinating conjunctions. I am interested both in semantics (better yet - categorial grammar, type logical, abstract categorial grammar) and syntax of this phrase.

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    There's no conjunction. This is a relative construction where the relative clause is "in relation to/for which a construction permit has been issued". The relative phrase is "in relation to which", where "which" is a relative pronoun anaphoric to "land". You need to study the syntax of relative clauses.
    – BillJ
    Apr 16, 2018 at 8:15
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    Note that the first two words constitute a noun compound, not a gerund phrase. Building land (as opposed to land that's not for building on) is how it's pronounced here, though I first read it as Building land and had to restart.
    – jlawler
    Apr 16, 2018 at 19:24
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    I see "building land" as an NP, a syntactic construction with "land" as head" and "building" as a VP modifying the head.
    – BillJ
    Apr 17, 2018 at 9:07
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    Is OP garden-path -ing here? Apr 17, 2018 at 14:32
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    Not at all. The sentence (in example) is taken from the Value-Added Tax law of one country. I guess that legislation has different aims.
    – TomR
    Apr 17, 2018 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


It is a relative clause. A plot of land is acting as the lexical head of the RC, and in relation to was 'moved' to before the relative pronoun (not conjunction) which through the process of pied piping; you can see more examples on the Wikipedia page linked.

  • Thanks. Two more questions, if allowed: 1) the cited wiki page generally gives example where pied-piping arise when proposition is modified into question or reported in indirect speech. My example is pied-piping in proposition (direct speech), so - it is possible to express this same sentence without pied-piping?
    – TomR
    Apr 17, 2018 at 20:28
  • 2) the second question - is there good (graduate, postgraduate level) book about natural language syntax in general and about English syntax in particular whose reeding could help me to identify such structures without necessity to ask in forum for the every new kind of construction encountered. I am working in computer science (with inclination of formal semantics of natural language), but I am eager to learn linguistics as well.
    – TomR
    Apr 17, 2018 at 20:31
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    @TomR Do you accept 'Building land is a plot of land which a construction permit has been issued in relation to?' If so, then yes. Apr 21, 2018 at 18:09
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    @TomR I think you can just take a look at any standard grammar like Quirk et al's Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language or Huddleston and Pullum's Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Apr 21, 2018 at 18:10

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