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My question is how to interpret this.

そう呟いて見上げる空は、朝見たよりも輝いて見えた

In this sentence does it mean he was already looking at the sky before he muttered whatever he said, or can it still indicate actions in succession when the verb is used in a relative clause after the て form(i.e. he muttered this and then looked up)?

edit: I think it means that in this case he was already looking upwards before he said it and the て form is to show the successive action at the end of the sentence?

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    Isn't 朝見たも something like 朝見たの? – broccoli forest Jan 28 '15 at 10:46
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Generally speaking, connecting two verbs like this using te-form indicates the two actions happens simultaneously, or the second one happens soon after the first one.

  • 酔って運転する drive under the influence of alcohol, drink and drive
  • 会って話す meet and talk
  • 食べて寝る eat and sleep, go to bed just after eating
  • 遊んで暮らす spend days in idleness

In your example sentence, maybe he muttered something and then looked up to the sky. Or maybe he muttered something and looked up to the sky almost at the same time. But it's unlikely that he has been already looking at the sky for a while before muttering something.

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Usually, A-て B composition describes "do B with effect or result of A", that is, either A continues as long as B does (like your second one 輝いて見えた), or A completes when/before B starts. But I know, oddly enough, A sometimes accepts action of utterance that apparently too late for B's beginning.

Some examples through quick Googling:

「ここか……緊張するな」そう言って見上げるのは11階建てのマンション。 (from here)

綺麗だねぇと言って見上げる村人たちの顔に (from here)

「どっから来たの、おじさん」そう言って見上げたサンジに (from here)

I suspect this usage is a rhetorical compromise with grammar, in order to smoothly induce readers' attention from speech to visual scene.

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