Internally Headed Relative Clauses

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Thu Mar 15 15:04:51 UTC 2001

Dear Colleagues,

in my recent query on a specific type of case assignment to heads of
participle constructions in subjective function I said that

> "I know that some people probably relate this technique to what is
> sometimes called 'relative clause internal head' constructions (in
> formal approaches) [personally, I don't think that such a formal label
> does explain anything]."

Nigel Vincent and Matthew Dryer had been so kind so inform me that the
term IHRC does not stem from formalist approaches but from earlier work
carried out from a functionalist / typological perspective. I'm thankful
to both for having taught me this lesson [I'm serious]. But does this my
shortcoming justifiy Nigel's reaction of the following kind:

> that dismissive remarks of the kind in Wolfgang's message are
> not very helpful, especially when, as far as I can see, they are not even
> factually accurate

Why is it 'dismissive' to reclaim a certain argumentative position?
Perhaps I have used the wrong words [I'm obviously not a native speaker
of English]. All I wanted to say is that I don't believe that formal
approaches to 'IHRC' phenomena such as Cole's 1987  contribution help to
understand what's going on in Udi. Is this dismissive [in a negative
sense]? All I wanted was to avoid an answer: like : "He, Wolfgang, have
a look at the IHRC typology - it shows you all". In fact, I did look at
this label, and it didn't explain to me anything of the Udi data. By
*explanation* I mean refer to functional, cognitive, communicative
parameters [both in a synchronic and diachronic perspective], not just
the identification of the phenomenon with the help of a given label [the
underlying question with respect to Udi is to which extent the ergative
case morpheme has a synchronic cognitive (or - if you want - symbolic
value]. I am well aware of the fact that formal approaches [in their
terms] also aim at explaining linguistic facts and [in their terms] also

> can in principle contribute to the advancement of
> knowledge and understanding.

but it is up to every individual to decide whether it merges formal and
functional explanatory theorems into one eclectic paradigm or not. In my
eyes, any eclectic approach should be motivated by a) empirics and b) by
an appropriate theoretical setting. Else, we would arrive at linguistic
haphazardness. After having studied formal approach for ten years or so,
I, for myself, haven't found any reason to construe such an eclectic
paradigm. I feel free enough to openly declare this position. It should
and does not mean that I 'dismiss' all other approaches [as long as they
are methodologically motivated and valid].


Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze
Institut für Allgemeine und Typologische Sprachwissenschaft
Departement II (Sprachen und Kommunikation) F 13/14
Universität München - Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1 - D-80539 München
Tel.: ++49-(0)89-2180 2486 (secretary) // ++49-(0)89-2180 5343 (office)
Fax:  ++49-(0)89-2180 5345
Email: 	W.Schulze at

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