Author Topic: Choice of Relative Clause Heads  (Read 673 times)

Offline Morphosyntax

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Choice of Relative Clause Heads
« on: December 25, 2017, 03:16:38 AM »
Can relative clauses be headed by phrases other than nominals?

Tough-constructions are analysed to involve relative clauses where the relative clause adjoins the adjective.

John is [AP easy [CP Op1 PRO to please t1]]

I'm confused about this because (null) relative operators, which are themselves nominals, need to be coindexed with a nominal head in order for the relative clause to get its interpretation, i.e. the relative clause head is the antecedent of the relative operator.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2017, 08:26:02 AM by Morphosyntax »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Choice of Relative Clause Heads
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2017, 05:49:15 AM »
The details would depend on the theory you're using and how you define these things ("nominal", "relative clause", etc.). It certainly isn't unimaginable to have the same analysis for those two types of constructions, but you'd need to show how it is consistent within your particular theory. Your objection also makes sense unless there is some way to work that out in the particular theory (I can imagine several, but they might not be consistent with other theoretical assumptions).
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Offline Morphosyntax

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Re: Choice of Relative Clause Heads
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2017, 08:19:57 AM »
I’m working within minimalist syntax.

It seems peculiar to me because the standard analysis of relative clauses in generative syntax is that a DP/NP constituent is coindexed with its corresponding overt wh-operator or null relative operator in the relative clause in SpecCP.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Choice of Relative Clause Heads
« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2017, 12:36:20 PM »
Short answer: categories are much less important in Minimalism, as long as all of the relevant features check. Some even try to avoid using labels at all, to the extent that is possible (but as discussed recently by Chomsky and others, and that leads to other problems).

Your observation/objection makes sense to me, although it matters less if you also think that (now in Minimalism) categories matter less.

One interesting point would be that it's no longer clear what "relative clause" would mean, except to say essentially that the structure of these two constructions is not substantially distinct. Labeling things like "relative clauses" would make more sense in earlier Generativism (e.g., rewrite rules) or Construction Grammar than trimmed down Minimalist theories. To be clear, Minimalism is a family of theories all sharing one property: they're trying to do away with as much of the complex earlier theories as possible, and this usually proceeds by individual authors addressing a single point (or several related points) in a paper, without actually proposing a fully theory, but rather just testing what happens when you remove something. In that sense, this idea is perfectly in line with Minimalist reasoning: what happens if we start re-using "relative clause" structure for other things-- how well does it work? How much (or little) can we get away with? The result is much less focus on distinctions between constructions (as in Construction Grammar, etc.) and more (perhaps overly broad) generalizations. So in short the only way to answer this is to carefully read the paper(s) that propose it and see how it works with the other assumptions that they retain in their particular Minimal theory. In principle there's nothing wrong with considering RCs and other similar constructions to have the same structure-- if it works.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2017, 12:40:25 PM by Daniel »
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Offline Morphosyntax

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Re: Choice of Relative Clause Heads
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2017, 09:21:31 PM »
Alright. Let's dispense with Minimalism for a minute.

Is there any restriction on the type of phrase that a relative clause can adjoin to? Relative clauses most commonly modify nouns, but can they modify anything else?

I ask this because certain linguists claim that the cleft clause in a cleft like "it is outside [that the kids are]" is a relative clause adjoining the clefted constituent.

Offline binumal

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Re: Choice of Relative Clause Heads
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2017, 12:34:53 AM »
Compare it with the sentence - It is easy to please= It is easy for someone to please John (=John is easy to please) , In the theory ,if I remember it correct, It is stipulated that after the movement of the operator to the CP the whole complex predicate assigns thematic role to the subject 'John' under predication.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Choice of Relative Clause Heads
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2017, 03:08:44 AM »
Quote
Is there any restriction on the type of phrase that a relative clause can adjoin to? Relative clauses most commonly modify nouns, but can they modify anything else?
That cannot be answered without defining what a "relative clause" is, and that ends up resulting in a circle of theoretical and definitional issues.

Quote
I ask this because certain linguists claim that the cleft clause in a cleft like "it is outside [that the kids are]" is a relative clause adjoining the clefted constituent.
Sure, why not, if it works? That wouldn't work for all types of analyses, but it would work for some. The goal of Generative Grammar is finding a particular formal grammar that will generate all of the relevant sentences. There's generally no deeper "truth of the matter" (e.g., in a philosophical sense) to be found, especially when linguists can't agree about the definitions of things or whether languages have the same things. (Is "relative clause" a cross-linguistic natural kind or just a label we use for convenience?)
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