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Book Chapter

Some issues in the linking between syntax and semantics in relative clauses


Van Valin Jr.,  Robert D.
Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf;
Syntax, Typology, and Information Structure, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Van Valin Jr., R. D. (2012). Some issues in the linking between syntax and semantics in relative clauses. In B. Comrie, & Z. Estrada-Fernández (Eds.), Relative Clauses in languages of the Americas: A typological overview (pp. 47-64). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-5555-6
Relative clauses present an interesting challenge for theories of the syntaxsemantics interface, because one element functions simultaneously in the matrix and relative clauses. The exact nature of the challenge depends on whether the relative clause is externally-headed or internallyheaded. Standard analyses of relative clauses are grounded in the analysis of Englishtype externally-headed constructions involving a relative pronoun, e.g. The horse which the man bought was a good horse, despite its typological rarity, and such accounts typically involve movement rules, both overt and covert, and phonologically null elements. The analysis of internally-headed relative clauses often involves the positing of an abstract structure including a null external head, with covert movement of the internal head to that position. The purpose of this paper is to show that the essential features of both types of relative clause can be captured in a syntactic theory that eschews movement rules and phonologically null elements, Role and Reference Grammar. It will be argued that a single set of linking principles can handle the syntax-to-semantics linking for both types. Keywords: Externally-headed relative clauses; internally-headed relative clauses; Role and Reference Grammar; linking syntax and semantics