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3.3.2.3.1. Differences between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses
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Section 3.1 has shown that restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses differ both in function and in form. As far as function is concerned, restrictive relative clauses serve to restrict the referent set of the antecedent, whereas non-restrictive relative clauses simply provide additional information without restricting this referent set. As for form, restrictive relative clauses form an intonation unit with their antecedent, while non-restrictive relative clauses are separated from their antecedent by means of an intonation break, represented in written language by commas preceding and following the relative clause. There are, however, other differences between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses, the most important of which are discussed in the following subsections.

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[+]  I.  Type of antecedent

Restrictive relative clauses must have a nominal antecedent, whereas non-restrictive relative clauses can take almost any category as their antecedent. The examples in (242) show that the antecedent can be a finite or infinitival clause or a smaller projection of the verb, and those in (243) show that the same thing holds for predicative APs, PPs and noun phrases. In all cases, the information given in the relative clause is additional information, and does not restrict the set of possible referents of the antecedent.

Example 242
a. [clause Hij ontkende alle betrokkenheid]i , wati een juiste reactie was.
  he  denied  all involvement  what  a right reaction  was
  'He denied all involvement, which was the right reaction.'
b. Jan zag [clause het schip zinken]i , wati niet lang duurde.
  Jan saw  the ship sink  what  not  long  lasted
  'Jan saw the ship sink, which didnʼt take long.'
c. Jan heeft [VP zich teruggetrokken]i , wati Piet nooit zal doen.
  Jan has  refl  withdrawn  what  Piet never  will  do
  'Jan has withdrawn, which Piet will never do .'
Example 243
a. De jongen was [AP erg bang]i , wati ik ook zou zijn geweest.
  the boy  was very afraid  what  also  would  be  been
  'The boy was afraid, which I would also have been.'
b. Hij woont [PP achter het station]i , waari een nieuwe wijk is gebouwd.
  he  lives  behind the station  where  a new quarter  is built
  'He lives behind the station, where a new residential area has been built.'
c. Jan is [NP communist]i , wati ik niet ben.
  Jan is  communist  what  not  am
  'Jan is a communist, which Iʼm not.'

Note that if the antecedent takes the form of an AP, both the AP and the relative pronoun must occur in predicative position. Thus in example (244a), the relative pronoun wat is coreferential with the predicative AP briljant'brilliant', whereas in (244b) the relative pronoun cannot take the attributive AP briljante as its antecedent, but only the DP een briljante onderzoeker'a brilliant researcher' as a whole.

Example 244
a. Jan is [AP briljant]i, wati ik niet ben.
  Jan is  brilliant,  which  not  am
  'Jan is brilliant, which Iʼm not.'
b. We zoeken [DP een [AP briljante]j onderzoeker]i, wati/*j Jan niet is.
  we  search  brilliant  researcher,  which  Jan not  is
  'Weʼre looking for a brilliant researcher, which Jan is not.'
[+]  II.  Scope of the determiner/quantifier

An important difference between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses concerns the scope of the determiner or the quantifier of the antecedent: whereas the determiner/quantifier has scope over restrictive relative clauses, this does not hold for non-restrictive relative clauses. In the following two subsections, we will discuss the implications of this for the two types of element at hand.

[+]  A.  The definite article

The use of a definite article conveys that the referent set is “identifiable” in the sense of being given in or recoverable from the context. Since restrictive relative clauses serve to restrict the potential number of referents of the antecedent, this implies that the article has scope over both the antecedent and the relative clause. Non-restrictive relative clauses, on the other hand, provide additional information about the referent of the antecedent and do not serve to identify the referent of the antecedent: if this referent is assumed to be identifiable, it will be so independently of the information contained in the relative clause, and the definite article can therefore be assumed to have scope over only the antecedent. This difference in scope can be represented as in (245). In (245a) the relative clause is placed within the NP-domain, and hence in the scope of the determiner. In (245b), on the other hand, the relative clause is placed outside the NP in order to express that it does not affect the denotation of the noun, and hence has no influence on the size of the referent set of the complete DP; see Section 3.1.2, sub II, for a discussion of some problems concerning the internal structure of DPs containing non-restrictive modifiers.

Example 245
a. Restrictive relative clause: [DP D [NP [... N ...]i [RC RELi ... ti ... ]]]
[DP de [NP fietsi [RC diei Jan ti kocht]]]
  the  bike  that  Jan  bought
  'the bike Jan bought'
b. Non-restrictive relative clause: [DP D [NP ... N ...]i , [RC RELi...ti...]]
[DP de [NP fiets]i , [RC diei Jan ti kocht]]
  the  bike  which  Jan  bought
  'the bike, which Jan bought'

In (245a), the choice of the definite determiner depends on the information provided in the relative clause: the definite article can be used, because the referent of the antecedent ( fiets'bike') is identifiable on account of the fact that the relative clause restricts the set of bikes to exactly one. In (245b), on the other hand, the choice of the article does not depend on the information given in the relative clause: the referent of the antecedent is assumed to be identifiable independently of the relative clause.

[+]  B.  Quantified antecedents

If the antecedent noun is quantified, the scope of the quantifier varies according to the type of relative clause used: if the relative clause is restrictive, the quantifier has scope over both the antecedent noun and the relative clause; if the relative clause is non-restrictive, only the antecedent falls within the scope of the quantifier. This is illustrated in example (246) for the universal quantifier alle'all'. The difference in scope here corresponds to a straightforward difference in meaning: whereas (246b) expresses that all persons present were offered a meal, (246a) implies that only a subset of the persons present (namely, those that came from afar) were offered a meal.

Example 246
a. Alle aanwezigen die van ver gekomen waren, kregen een maaltijd.
  all persons present  who  from far  come  were  got  a meal
  'All those present who had come from afar were given a meal.'
b. Alle aanwezigen, die van ver gekomen waren, kregen een maaltijd.

      Not all quantified noun phrases allow modification by both types of relative clause. Modification of a universally quantified noun phrase by a non-restrictive relative clause is only possible if the noun phrase denotes a group, as in (246); if we are dealing with a set of singular entities, as in the case of ieder(een)'every(one)' in (247) or elk'every/each' in (248), the modifying relative clause can only be restrictive.

Example 247
a. Iedereen/Iedere gast die van ver gekomen was, kreeg een maaltijd.
  everyone/every guest  who  from far  come  was  got  a meal
  'Everyone/Every guest who had come from afar was given a meal.'
b. * Iedereen/Iedere gast, die van ver gekomen was, kreeg een maaltijd.
Example 248
a. Elke leerling die te laat kwam, werd gestraft.
  every student  who  too late  came  was  punished
  'Every student who came too late was punished.'
b. * Elke leerling, die te laat kwam, werd gestraft.

      In the case of existential quantifiers like enkele'some', sommige'some' and de meeste'most', on the other hand, the interpretation can be complicated by the fact that the quantifier itself can have two different readings, a purely quantitative reading (some/most N) and a partitive one (some/most of the N). First consider the examples in (249), which involve restrictive relative clauses. As expected, the quantifiers enkele'some' and de meeste'most' have scope over the relative clause: example (249a) asserts that there is a set of books that are marked down, and that the speaker bought some of them, and example (249b) that there is a set of clocks that were broken, and that the speaker repaired most of them.

Example 249
a. Ik heb enkele [NP boekeni diei afgeprijsd waren gekocht].
  have  some  books  which  marked.down  were  bought
  'Iʼve bought some books which were marked down.'
b. Ik heb de meeste [NP klokkeni diei stuk waren gerepareerd].
  have  the most  clocks  which  broken  were  repaired
  'Iʼve repaired most of the clocks that were broken.'

The interpretation of the corresponding examples with non-restrictive relative clauses varies depending on whether the quantifier has a purely quantitative or a partitive reading.

Example 250
a. Ik heb enkele [NP boeken]i, diei afgeprijsd waren, gekocht.
  have  some  books  which  marked.down  were  bought
b. Ik heb de meeste [NP klokken]i , diei stuk waren, gerepareerd.
  have  the most  clocks  which  broken  were  repaired

On the purely quantificational reading, the information in the non-restrictive relative clause is taken to apply to the complete quantified set: (250a) asserts that some books were reduced in price and that the speaker bought these, and (250b) that many clocks were broken and that the speaker repaired these. On the partitive reading, on the other hand, there is a particular set of books or clocks that has been previously introduced into the discourse, and the quantified expression refers to a subset of this set. The relative clause, however, does not take the quantified expression as its antecedent, but the original, non-quantified set. In this case, the relative clause will be given contrastive emphasis and will, in terms of scope relations, be equivalent to the explicit partitive constructions given in (251).

Example 251
a. Ik heb enkele van [de boeken]i, diei afgeprijsd waren, gekocht.
  have  some  of the books  which  marked.down  were  bought
b. Ik heb de meeste van [de klokken]i, diei stuk waren, gerepareerd.
  have  the most  of the clocks  which  broken  were  repaired

      Negative noun phrases behave more or lesss like the universally quantified noun phrases in (247) and (248) in not allowing non-restrictive relative clauses. Some examples are given in (252).

Example 252
a. Geen enkele stad die ik ken, is zo mooi als Amsterdam.
  no single city  that  know  is so beautiful as Amsterdam
  'Not one city that I know is as beautiful as Amsterdam.'
a'. * Geen enkele stad, die ik ken, is zo mooi als Amsterdam.
b. Ik ken niemand die van horrorfilms houdt.
  know  no.one  who  of horror films  likes
  'I know no one who likes horror films.'
b'. * Ik ken niemand, die van horrorfilms houdt.

In the primeless examples, the negation expressed by geen and the n- part of the existential quantifier niemand have sentential scope. The interpretation has the general format in (253), in which N stands for the property expressed (the set denoted) by the modified NP and V for the property expressed by the VP. The effect of the restrictive relative clauses in the primeless examples in (252) is that the set denoted by the modified NP is smaller than the set denoted by the unmodified noun, which leads to the paraphrases in (253a&b).

Example 253
¬∃x (Nx & Vx): there is no x, such that x has both the property N and V
a. There is no city x which I know and which is as beautiful as Amsterdam.
b. There is no person x who I know and who likes horror films.

The paraphrases in (253) show that the primeless examples in (252) do not exclude the existence of cities that are as beautiful as Amsterdam or of people known by the speaker. Given that non-restrictive relative clauses do not affect the referent set of the noun phrase, the primed examples do have these implications, and this is in fact the reason why they are unacceptable; since an empty set does not have any members about which one can give additional information, the use of a non-restrictive relative clause leads to a contradiction or at least a semantically incoherent interpretation. Sentence (252a'), for example, is incoherent given that it expresses that the members of the empty intersection of the set of cities and the set of entities that are as beautiful as Amsterdam are known to the speaker. Similarly, sentence (252b') expresses that the members of the empty set of people known by the speaker like horror movies.
      Note in passing that non-restrictive relative clauses crucially differ in this respect from appositives, which can modify negative noun phrases. Example (254), for instance, is fully acceptable due to the fact that, although the apposition is added as an afterthought, it is still restrictive in nature; cf. the discussion in Section 3.1.3, sub II.

Example 254
Geen enkele stad – die ik ken althans – is zo mooi als Amsterdam.
  no single city  that  know  at.least  is so beautiful as Amsterdam
'No city, at least no city that I know, is as beautiful as Amsterdam.'
[+]  III.  Definiteness/Indefiniteness of the antecedent

The examples in (255) show again that both restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses are possible with definite antecedents, with the difference in meaning discussed in Subsection II: in the non-restrictive, primed examples the (possibly singleton) referent set of the definite antecedent is assumed to be identifiable without the information given in the relative clause; in the restrictive, primeless examples, on the other hand, the relative clause makes the referent set identifiable by restricting the denotation of the NP.

Example 255
a. De koekoeksklok die uit Zwitserland afkomstig was, liep het best.
a'. De koekoeksklok, die uit Zwitserland afkomstig was, liep het best.
  the cuckoo clock  which  from Switzerland  came  ran  the best
b. De koekoeksklokken die uit Zw. afkomstig waren, liepen het best.
b'. De koekoeksklokken, die uit Zw. afkomstig waren, liepen het best.
  the cuckoo clocks  which  from Sw.  came  ran  the best

Modification of an indefinite antecedent is more restricted. Whereas restrictive relative clauses can always be used, non-restrictive relative clauses are only fully acceptable with indefinite antecedents if the noun phrase is given a generic interpretation: if the indefinite antecedent is interpreted specifically, a non-restrictive clause often leads to unacceptability, although there are also cases where the result is fine; non-restrictive clauses are excluded if the antecedent is nonspecific.

[+]  A.  Generic antecedents

The examples in (256) show that generic antecedents accept both restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses, although the result is somewhat marked if the generic antecedent is singular, as in (256a'). The restrictive relative clauses in the primeless examples once more function to restrict the whole class of entities referred to by the antecedent noun. The non-restrictive relative clauses in the primed examples are used to provide extra information about the referent of the generic antecedent NP, that is, the entire class of objects denoted.

Example 256
a. Een koekoeksklok die uit Zw. afkomstig is, loopt altijd goed.
a'. ? Een koekoeksklok, die uit Zw. afkomstig is, loopt altijd goed.
  a cuckoo clock  which  from Sw.  comes  runs  always  well
b. Koekoeksklokken die uit Zw. afkomstig zijn, lopen altijd goed.
b'. Koekoeksklokken, die uit Zw. afkomstig zijn, lopen altijd goed.
  cuckoo clocks  which  from Sw.  come  run  always  well
[+]  B.  Specific antecedents

The examples in (257) show that combinations of specific indefinite antecedents and restrictive relative clauses are perfectly acceptable. The restrictive relative clause serves to restrict the specific referent set of the antecedent, but the use of the indefinite article conveys that the noun phrase fails to uniquely identify the referent set for the hearer, that is, the resulting set still consists of more than one potential referent set.

Example 257
Restrictive relative clauses
a. Een koekoeksklok die uit Zw. afkomstig was, liep het best.
  a cuckoo clock  which  from Sw.  came  ran  the best
  'A cuckoo clock which came from Switzerland kept the best time.'
a'. Twee koekoeksklokken die uit Zw. afkomstig waren, liepen het best.
  two cuckoo clocks  which  from Sw.  came  ran  the best
b. Hij had een koekoeksklok die uit Zw. komt uitgekozen.
  he  had  a cuckoo clock  which  from Sw. comes  prt.-chosen
  'He had chosen a cuckoo clock which comes from Switzerland.'
b'. Hij had twee koekoeksklokken die uit Zw. komen uitgekozen.
  he  had  two cuckoo clocks  which  from Sw. come  prt.-chosen

Non-restrictive relative clauses, on the other hand, can less easily be combined with a specific indefinite antecedent. The sentences in (258), for example, are definitely marked, and may even require an appositive reading of the relative clause; cf. Section 3.1.3.

Example 258
Non-restrictive relative clauses
a. ?? Een (bepaalde) koekoeksklok, die uit Zw. afkomstig was, liep het best.
  a particular cuckoo clock  which  from Sw.  came  ran  the best
  'A (certain) cuckoo clock, which came from Switzerland, kept the best time.'
b. ?? (Bepaalde) koekoeksklokken, die uit Zw. afkomstig waren, liepen het best.
  particular cuckoo clocks  which from Sw.  came ran  the best

The sentences in (259) are acceptable, but not on the intended reading. Although the antecedent in these constructions has specific reference, the (present-tense) relative clauses provide information about the class as a whole. Thus, the most likely interpretation of these examples is one in which the additional information given in the relative clause applies to all cuckoo clocks, not just to the one(s) we have bought.

Example 259
Non-restrictive relative clauses
a. # Hij had een koekoeksklok, die uit Zw. afkomstig is, uitgekozen.
  he  had  a cuckoo clock  which  from Sw.  comes  prt.-chosen
  'We have chosen a cuckoo clock, which comes from Switzerland.'
b. # Hij had twee koekoeksklokken, die uit Zw. afkomstig zijn, uitgekozen.
  he  had  two cuckoo clocks  which from Sw.  come  prt.-chosen

That it is not impossible for non-restrictive relative clauses to modify specific indefinite antecedents can be seen from the examples in (260), where the only possible reading is the intended one: the relative clauses provide additional information about the clocks under discussion.

Example 260
Non-restrictive relative clauses
a. Ik had een dure klok, die uit Zwitserland kwam, gekocht.
  had  an expensive clock  which  from Switzerland  came  bought
  'I had bought an expensive clock which came from Switzerland.'
b. Ik had twee dure klokken, die uit Zwitserland kwamen, gekocht.
  had two expensive clocks  which  from Switzerland  came  bought
[+]  C.  Nonspecific antecedents

The examples in (261) show that nonspecific antecedents only accept restrictive relative clauses. This is not surprising given the difference in function between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses. The speaker can readily use a restrictive relative in order to narrow down the set of possible, nonspecific referents: the primeless examples simply exclude all clocks that do not come from Switzerland. However, given that the identity of the referents in the referent set of the noun phrase is also unknown to him, the speaker is not able to provide more information about these referents in the form of a non-restrictive relative clause. As a result, the primed examples are only acceptable on a specific or generic reading of the noun phrase.

Example 261
a. Ik wil mijn broer alleen een klok die uit Zw. afkomstig is geven.
  I want  my brother  only  a clock  which  from Sw. comes  give
a'. # Ik wil mijn broer alleen een klok, die uit Zw. afkomstig is, geven.
b. Ik wil mijn broer alleen klokken die uit Zw. afkomstig zijn geven.
  I want  my brother  only  clocks  which  from Sw. come  give
b'. # Ik wil mijn broer alleen klokken, die uit Zw. afkomstig zijn, geven.
[+]  IV.  Binding

The difference in semantic function of restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses may also account for the fact that whereas restrictive clauses always allow binding into the relative clause, non-restrictive relative clauses only do so under certain circumstances. Example (262a) shows that the reflexive zichzelf can be bound by the proper noun Jan contained in the restrictive relative clause with the resulting interpretation that the book referred to is the one that Jan wrote about himself. Example (262b), in contrast, shows that this binding relation is blocked with the constituent Jan occurring in a non-restrictive relative clause.

Example 262
a. Het [boek over zichzelfi]j datj Jani (onlangs) geschreven heeft, is erg goed.
  the   book about himself  that  Jan  recently  written  has  is very good
  'The book about himself which Jan (recently) has written, is very good.'
b. * [Het boek over zichzelfi]j , datj Jani geschreven heeft, is erg goed.
  the book about himself  that Jan  written  has  is very good

If we take into consideration the function of the non-restrictive relative clause, we can exclude example (262b) for pragmatic reasons. Since the antecedent in (262b) has independent reference, the identifiability of the referent should not depend on the information given in the relative clause, which should only provide additional information about this antecedent. The fact that the antecedent has independent reference implies that the referent of the anaphor zichzelf is known, that is, bound by an implicit argument of the picture noun that refers to the author of the book (cf. 2.2.5.2). Consequently, we have to conclude that the identity of the author of the book is also known, which means that the information provided by the non-restrictive relative clause is superfluous. This makes the sentence infelicitous. This line of reasoning predicts that the sentence becomes acceptable if we add information to the non-restrictive relative clause that is not already implied. Example (263) shows that this is indeed the case: sentence (262b) becomes fully acceptable if we add the information that the book was written recently.

Example 263
[Het boek over zichzelfi]j , datj Jani onlangs geschreven heeft, is erg goed.
  the book about himself  that  Jan  recently  written  has  is very good

      Something similar holds for the possessive pronoun zijn'his' in example (264): the contrast between (264a) and (264b) shows that the pronoun can be bound by the proper noun Rembrandt if the latter is part of a restrictive relative clause, but not if it is part of a non-restrictive relative clause with the sole function of identifying the painter of the portrait. As soon as the relative clause provides other (new, focal) information, as in example (264c), the construction is acceptable.

Example 264
a. Het [portret van zijni zoon]j datj Rembrandti schilderde, hangt in zaal 10.
  the   portrait of his son  that Rembrandt painted hangs in room 10
  'The portrait of his son that Rembrandt painted is in room 10.'
b. * [Het portret van zijni zoon]j , datj Rembrandti schilderde, hangt in zaal 10.
  the portrait of his son  which Rembrandt painted  hangs in room 10
c. [Het portret van zijni zoon]j , datj Rembrandti schilderde in 1647, hangt in zaal 10.
  the portrait of his son  which Rembrandt painted in 1647  hangs in room 10
[+]  V.  Negative polarity

The examples in (265) show that negative polarity items like ook maar iets'anything at all' can occur in a restrictive relative clause that modifies a universally quantified noun phrase, but not in a non-restrictive clause. The difference can be accounted for in terms of scope of the quantifier ifwe assume that a negative polarity item can be licensed by a universal quantifier. In example (265a) the quantifier alle'all' has scope over both the antecedent and the restrictive relative clause, and as a result also the expression ook maar iets falls within the scope of a quantifier. In (265b), on the other hand, the non-restrictive relative clause falls outside the scope of the quantifier, and as a result the negative polarity item is not licensed; note that the example is grammatical if we replace the negative polarity item by the existential quantifier pronoun iets.

Example 265
a. Alle atleten die ook maar iets met de zaak te maken konden hebben, werden geschorst.
  all athletes  who  ook maar something  with the case  to do  could have,   were  suspended
  'All the athletes who could have anything to do with the case were suspended.'
b. * Alle atleten, die (*ook maar) iets met de zaak te maken konden hebben, werden geschorst.
  all athletes  who  ook maar something  with the case  to do  could  have  were  suspended
[+]  VI.  Stacking

Restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses differ with regard to the possibility of stacking. Whereas stacking is fully acceptable in the case of restrictive relative clauses, stacking of non-restrictive relative clauses often leads to unacceptable or questionable results. Some examples are given in (266). For a detailed discussion of stacking of relative clauses, see Section 3.3.2.3.4.

Example 266
a. De studenti [diei hier gisteren was] [diei Engels studeert] is erg aardig.
  the student  who here yesterday was   who English studies  is very nice
  'The student who was here yesterday who studies English, is very nice.'
b. *? De studenti , [diei hier gisteren was] , [diei Engels studeert] , is erg aardig.
  the student  who here yesterday was   who English studies  is very nice
  'The student, who was here yesterday, who studies English, is very nice.'
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