need for hooks

Ellen F. Prince ellen at CENTRAL.CIS.UPENN.EDU
Sun Apr 20 17:43:54 UTC 1997

brian, while i agree with the spirit of everything you say, i must chime in
that all the work i know of re restrictive relatives involves definite heads.
(please correct me if i'm wrong -- i'd be very interested!)

in a study i did on relatives in english and yiddish, restrictive and
nonrestrictive, gap-containing and resumptive pronoun, definite and indefinite
headed, it turned out that certain restrictives (more or less indefinite
headed) function to a degree like nonrestrictives (typically definite) while
having the same syntax (at least the gap-containing kind) as definite

in particular, and relevant to your post, indefinite restrictives do *not*
distinguish members of a contrast set. they typically introduce a hearer-new
entity and predicate (hearer-new, of course) information about that entity.

nonrestrictives typically evoke a hearer-old entity and predicate hearer-new
info about that entity.

and, in these terms, definite restrictives -- the kind everyone thinks of --
evoke a member of a hearer-old set of entities and specify hearer-old info
about that entity that distinguishes it from the other members of the set. i
presume it is these that you are calling 'cognitively unitized', not the
indefinite headed restrictives, right?

of course i'm oversimplifying here -- formal definiteness is not the cause,
only a statistical correlation with the different functional types of
restrictive relatives.

the reference is:

Prince, E.F. 1990. Syntax and discourse: a look at resumptive pronouns. In
Hall, K. et al., eds. Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual Meeting of the
Berkeley Linguistics Society. Pp. 482-97.

it's d/l'able from my web site:

i'd be very very interested in any feedback, incl hearing about any relevant

>The idea that restrictive relative clauses are composed of material that
>has been cognitively unitized is pretty far from hand-waving.
>Psycholinguistic research from the 60s and 70s by Rommetveit and Turner,
>Clark, Krauss and Glucksberg showed how restrictive relatives are used to
>distinguish members of a contrast set.  Typological work by Givon, Keenan,
>Comrie, and others demonstrated asymmetries in relativization types that
>matched up well with underlying functional characteristics.  In more recent
>psycholinguistic work, Bock and her colleagues have explored processes
>which allow previously mentioned material to form the kernel of further
>utterances.  Bock has focused on passives and datives.  Earlier, Levelt
>looked at question structures.  The message from this work on what Bock
>calls syntactic persistence is that the use of a syntactic pattern in
>previous discourse tends to make it available as unit for further
>Many of the syntactic phenomena that revolve around constraints on raising
>from relatives emerge rather directly from these facts.  I can't remember
>ever having thought or said that syntax should be eliminated.  I consider
>syntax a wonderful, complex, and fascinating fact of nature.  I simply
>believe, like Geertz, Wilcox, and Aske, that it should be explicated.  In
>particular, I think that syntacticians have a responsibility to the rest of
>the linguistic community to make their analyses more penetrable to
>explication.   This can be done by including "hooks" in syntactic theory to
>concepts and constructs that match up with what we know about language
>processing and use.  The treatment of restrictive relative clauses
>discussed in some of the previous messages is a prime example of a
>construction for which such a "hook" is needed.
>Like computer programs that have hooks, theories that have hooks have to be
>designed in a way that supports communication between disciplinary
>"modules".  For example, the theory of syntax would need to support hooks
>for things from psychology like cognitive unitization, syntactic
>persistence, memory strings, construction generalization, and the like.
>Including hooks to these objects would markedly alter the shape of
>syntactic theory.  It would definitely not make syntax disappear.  However,
>it would allow syntacticians, functionalists, and psycholinguists to
>communicate and collaborate more effectively.  I'm not sure that it would
>bring us to the point of using syntactic theory to make statements about
>children as expert witnesses, but it might get closer.
>I have been told that the increased role of logical form in minimalist
>syntax may represent a movement in this direction.  It would be interesting
>if that were the case.
>--Brian MacWhinney

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