Author Topic: restrictive vs non-restrictive clauses  (Read 146 times)

Offline cavertronix

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restrictive vs non-restrictive clauses
« on: July 02, 2017, 07:09:05 AM »
I have problems to distinguish restrictive from non-restrictive clauses. I use the comma distinction but Ive got problems with identifying restrictive clauses with non-restrictive meaning. Is there any another way/test to distinguish them?

Offline Daniel

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Re: restrictive vs non-restrictive clauses
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2017, 11:04:44 AM »
The definition here might help: http://www.glossary.sil.org/term/restrictive-relative-clause

In short, a restrictive relative clause is one that further restricts (narrows) the definition of the whole expression. So "men who sing" would refer to the set of men who sing (but not other men who don't sing). A non-restrictive relative clause is one that simply additionally describes something about the existing expression that doesn't narrow it further and instead applies to the whole set. So "men who sing" would indicate that all men sing, because it's talking about "men" and then further modifying it as saying that those men (=all of those men, or all men in general) sing.

Compare:
Linguistics, which is the study of languages, is important. (Non-restrictive)
Linguistics research that doesn't cite any sources is usually bad. (Restrictive)


Note that in very careful English, usually "that" is used for restrictive usage, while "which" is used for non-restrictive usage. Additionally, a comma often offsets non-restrictive clauses (because they are additional information, which is like the usage of appositives: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apposition).

In some usage (especially without careful punctuation, and not formal enough to use 'which' consistently), the two types are ambiguous and you can only determine the meaning in context.
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