Summary: extraposed relative clauses

Roger Levy rog at STANFORD.EDU
Tue Sep 23 23:43:32 UTC 2003

Dear typologists,

This is a much-belated summary of responses to a query I made in June
regarding the cross-linguistic distribution of relative clauses (RCs).
Thanks to Marcel Erdal, David Gil, Stefan Knoob, Stephane Robert, and
Richard Valovics for their responses.

I continue to be very interested in this topic and would welcome
further information on the cross-linguistic distribution of RC
extraposition, including examples of languages that appear _not_ to
allow RC extraposition.

Many thanks,

Roger Levy


Marcel Erdal notes that Turkish can have extraposed RCs appearing at
the end of the sentence; unextraposed RCs appear before their head.

David Gil notes that extraposed RCs appear in colloquial varieties of
Indonesian, though they have an afterthought flavor unlike their
English counterparts, and also in Hebrew.

Stefan Knoob suggests that a distinction needs to be made between
extraposed RCs where only low-level components of the verb phrase
intervene between the RC and its home noun, and extraposed RCs where
other constituents, such as another nominal argument, also intervene.
In the former case, he suggests, extraposition will be the unmarked

Er hat seiner Mutter das Buch gegeben, das Lisa ihm gestern gekauft
hat. (statistically unmarked)
he has his mother-DAT the book-ACC given, that Lisa him-DAT yesterday
bought has
'He gave his mother the book that he bought yesterday.'

Er hat seiner Mutter das Buch, das Lisa ihm gestern gekauft hat,
gegeben. (statistically marked)

whereas in the latter, the extraposed variant will be marked:

Er hat das Buch seiner Mutter gegeben, das Lisa ihm gestern gekauft
hat. (statistically marked)
Er hat das Buch, das Lisa ihm gestern gekauft hat, seiner Mutter
gegeben. (statistically unmarked)

He further notes that the type of intervening element can also affect
markedness patterns:

Wieso stellst du die Buecher denn immer nur ins Regal, die du dir
laufend kauftst?! (unmarked)
why puts.standing you the books EMPH always only into.the shelf, that
you you-DAT continuously buy
'Why on earth do you just put the books into the shelf that you buy
yourself all the time.'

Wieso stellst du die Buecher, die du dir laufend kauftst, denn immer
nur ins Regal?! (marked)

Stefan also suggested a diachronic connection with the development of
auxiliary and participial.  Regarding the intervening
constituent/markedness issue, I would note that this seems to be a
complicated issue; one relevant study would be Uszkoreit et al. [1]

Stephane Robert suggested that Latin may have extraposed relative

Richard Valovics notes that Hungarian allows right-extraposed RCs even
with an intervening NP, subject to semantic plausibility constraints:

János azt a könyvet tette az asztalra, amelyiket Anna tegnap vette.
John that the book laid the table-on, that Anna yesterday bought.
John laid the book that Anna had bought yesterday on the table.

He also notes that left extraposition of RCs can happen, as in
topicalization, and that Danish also has right-extraposed RCs, though
less widespread than in German or Hungarian.

[1] Hans Uszkoreit, Thorsten Brants, Denys Duchier, Brigitte Krenn,
Lars Konieczny, Stephan Oepen, and Wojciech Skut.  1998.  Studien zur
Performzorientieren Linguistik: Aspekte der Relativsatzextraposition
im Deutschen. Kognitionswissenschaft 7:129-133.

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