• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents General introduction

Relative clauses serve to provide information about an entity introduced by a noun (phrase) in the matrix clause, the antecedent. They are obligatorily introduced by (a phrase containing) a relative element coreferential with this antecedent and contain a trace indicating the original position of the relative element. The overall structure of relative clauses is therefore as indicated in (82); see De Vries (2002: appendix III) for an overview of different syntactic analyses of relative clauses.

Example 82
Overall structure of relative clauses: Det Ni[RCRELi.... ti....]

For instance, the relative pronoun dat in the examples in (81), repeated here as (83), is coreferential with its antecedent boek'book', and the trace ti indicates the original position of the pronoun in the relative clause.

Example 83
a. Het boeki [RC dati ik gisteren ti gekocht heb], was erg duur.
  the book  that  yesterday  bought  have  was very expensive
b. Ik heb het boeki, [RC datiti erg duur was], maar niet gekocht.
  have  the book  which  very expensive  was  prt  not  bought

      Relative clauses can be either restrictive or non-restrictive. Like other restrictive modifiers, restrictive relative clauses form an intonation unit with their antecedent, while reducing the referent set of the noun phrase by restricting the denotation of the noun. Given this, it is plausible to assume that, like other restrictive modifiers, restrictive relative clauses are part of the NP-domain: in (84), this is expressed by placing the relative clause within the NP brackets and by coindexing the relative element with some projection of the head noun smaller than NP (which may contain other restrictive modifiers).

Example 84
Restrictive relative clauses: [ DP D [ NP [... N ...] i [ RC REL i .... t i ....]]]
a. De mani [RC dieiti naast mij woont] speelt goed piano.
  the man  who  next.to  me  lives  plays  well  piano
  'The man who lives next to me plays the piano well.'
b. Het boeki [RC dati ik ti wilde kopen] was uitverkocht.
  the book  that  wanted  buy  was  sold.out
  'The book I wanted to buy was sold out.'
c. Het huisi [RC waari ik ti geboren ben] is allang afgebroken.
  the house  where  born  am  is long.ago  pulled.down
  'The house where I was born was pulled down long ago.'

Non-restrictive relative clauses are separated from the noun by an intonation break, represented in the examples in (85) by means of commas, and merely provide additional information about the referent set of the full noun phrase, which can be established independently of the relative clause. Given this, we assume that non-restrictive relative clauses are external to the NP, and that the relative element is coindexed with the NP; see Section for details.

Example 85
Non-restrictive relative clauses: [ DP D [ NP ... N ...] i , [ RC REL i .... t i ....]]
a. Peteri, [RC diei ik graag ti mag], speelt goed piano.
  Peter  who  well  like  plays  well  piano
b. Dit boeki, [RC datiti erg spannend is], was al snel uitverkocht.
  this book  which  very exciting  is  was  already  soon  sold.out
  'This book, which is very exciting, was soon sold out.'
c. Dit huisi, [RC waari Rembrandt ti woonde], is nu een museum.
  this house,  where  Rembrandt  lived,  is now  a museum
  'This house, where Rembrandt used to live, is now a museum.'

The abstract structure in (85) shows that we assume that the non-restrictive relative clause is still part of the DP-domain; the reasons for this are given in 3.1.2, sub II. Since many researchers have argued that besides the NP- and DP-projection, other intermediate projections can be distinguished within the noun phrase, such as NumP discussed in Section 1.1.2, sub IIA, example (6), it might be the case that the relative elements of non-restrictive relative clauses are coindexed with some higher projection in between NP and DP. The main issue here is, however, to indicate the scope of the two types of relative clauses: a non-restrictive relative clause provides additional information about the referent of the noun phrase, and since the reference of the noun phrase is determined by the determiner, the relative clause must have this determiner in its scope; a restrictive relative clause does not provide information about the referent of the noun phrase but restricts the denotation of the noun, and it is therefore plausible that it is only the NP that falls inside its scope
      Since this section is mainly concerned with postmodification of nominal heads, the discussion will focus on relative constructions of the type in (84) and (85) above and semi-free relatives like (86a); free relative constructions such as (86b), in which an overt nominal antecedent is lacking, will not be extensively discussed.

Example 86
a. Degene die gisteren opbelde, was mijn broer.
  the one  who yesterday prt.-called  was my brother
  'The one who called yesterday was my brother.'
b. Wie nu niet weggaat, komt te laat.
  who now not leaves  comes  too late
  'Anyone who doesnʼt leave now will be late.'
  • Vries, Mark de2002The syntax of relativizationAmsterdamUniversity of AmsterdamThesis
This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.