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PRONOUNS, RELATIVE AND INTERROGATIVE. Who; transition from interrogative to relative meaning

Who and what. In Early English who was the masc. or fem. and what the neut. interrogative (or used as the indefinite relative who-so, what-so), that being both the demonstrative and relative, except in the oblique cases.

The transition of the interrogative to the relative can easily be explained. Thus, the sentence

“O now who will behold
The royal captain of this ruin'd band?
Let him cry 'Praise and glory on his head,'

may easily become "now let him who will behold," &c.

We can now only use who-ever in this sense, but the Germans still use their interrogative (wer) thus. In such cases the who mostly retains a trace of its interrogative meaning by preceding the antecedent clause:

“Who steals my purse (he) steals trash,

and hence referring to a definite past:

“Who was the thane (he) lives yet.

In this and other examples (as in Greek) the antecedent pronoun is often omitted owing to the emphatic position of the relative.

“Whom we raise we will make fast.

“Is proclamation made that who finds Edward
Shall have a high reward?

“Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fixed.

“We are going to whom it must be done.

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