• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
3.3.2.3.3. Non-restrictive relative clauses
quickinfo

The examples in (321) show that the antecedent of a non-restrictive relative clause can fulfill a variety of syntactic functions in the clause: subject, (in)direct object, PP-complement and adverbial phrase.

Example 321
a. Mijn broer, [RC die goed piano speelt], heeft een prijs gewonnen.
  my brother  who well piano plays  has  a prize  won
  'My brother, who plays the piano well, has won a prize.'
b. Zij feliciteerde mijn broer, [RC die goed piano speelt], met zijn prijs.
  she  congratulated  my brother  who plays the piano well  with his prize
c. Ze hebben mijn broer, [RC die goed piano speelt], de prijs toegekend.
  they  have  my brother  who well piano plays  the prize  prt.-awarded
  'They have awarded my brother, who plays the piano well, the prize.'
d. Ik heb naar mijn broer geluisterd, [RC die goed piano speelt].
  have  to my brother  listened  who well piano plays
e. Ik ga naar een concert met mijn broer, [RC die goed piano speelt].
  go  to a concert been  with my brother  who well piano plays

Noun phrases modified by a non-restrictive relative clause can furthermore be used as complement or modifier within another noun phrase. This is illustrated in (322).

Example 322
a. Mijn bewondering voor mijn broer, [RC die goed piano speelt] is groot.
  my admiration  for my brother  who well piano plays is great
b. De muziek van mijn broer, [RC die goed piano speelt], is erg mooi.
  the music  of my brother  who well piano plays  is very beautiful

The only thing that is not readily possible is modification of a predicatively used noun phrase. This is not surprising, of course, given that non-restrictive relative clauses serve to provide more information about the referent set of the noun phrase. Since predicates do not refer, it follows immediately from this that a predicatively used noun phrase cannot be modified by a non-restrictive relative clause. This is illustrated in (323); a non-restrictive clause can only be used to provide additional information about the intended pianist if it is added to the subject of the construction, as in (323a); adding the relative clause to the nominal predicate, as in (323b), gives rise to an uninterpretable result. It should be noted, however, that this restriction does not hold if the relative clause is introduced by the predicative relative pronoun wat, which can take several types of predicates as its antecedent; cf. Section 3.3.2.2, sub IC5.

Example 323
a. Jani, [RC diei hier vaak speelt], is [Pred de beste pianist van Nederland].
  Jan who  here  often  plays is  the best pianist of the.Netherlands
  'Jan, who often plays here, is the best pianist of the Netherlands.'
a'. * Jan is [Pred de beste pianist van Nederland]i, [RC diei hier vaak speelt].
  Jan is  the best pianist of the.Netherlands  who  here  often  plays
b. Jan is een goede pianist/briljant [RC wat ik niet ben].
  Jan is a good pianist/brilliant  which  not  am

This issue will be discussed more extensively in Subsection I, which will discuss the meaning contribution of non-restrictive relative clauses. This is followed in Subsections II and III by discussions of the different types of non-restrictive relative clause, and the position of non-restrictive relative clauses and their antecedent in the clause.

readmore
[+]  I.  The function of non-restrictive relative clauses

A non-restrictive relative clause serves to provide additional information about its antecedent, which means that the information provided in the relative clause is not required for the proper identification of the referent set of the antecedent; if the relative clauses in (321) and (322) above are left out, the result is less informative but grammatical and felicitous as the hearer can still be assumed to be able to identify the person the speaker is referring to (but see Section 3.3.2.3.3, sub II). Although non-restrictive relative clauses have this function of providing additional information regardless of the form of their antecedent, it has different implications for relative clauses with definite antecedents and those with indefinite antecedents. In what follows, these two types of relative clauses will therefore be treated in separate subsections. A third subsection is added that discusses non-restrictive clauses that take an antecedent with a predicative function in the clause.

[+]  A.  Non-restrictive relative clauses with definite antecedents

As a logical result of their non-restrictive function, non-restrictive relative clauses can easily be used in combination with antecedents with unique referents. Since these referents can be assumed to be identifiable, the relative clauses need not, and typically cannot, contain identifying information. This is illustrated in (324) for an antecedent in the form of a proper noun, a noun with unique reference, and antecedents containing a demonstrative and possessive determiner.

Example 324
a. Rembrandt, [RC die leefde van 1606 tot 1669], is een groot schilder.
  Rembrandt  who lived from 1606 to 1669  is a great painter
  'Rembrandt, who lived from 1606 to 1669, is a great painter.'
b. De zon, [RC die hoog aan de hemel stond], gaf veel warmte.
  the sun  which high in the sky stood  gave  much  warmth
  'The sun, which was high in the sky, gave a lot of heat.'
c. Ik heb dit schilderij, [RC dat erg duur was], op een veiling gekocht.
  I have this painting  which  very expensive  was  at an auction  bought
  'I bought this painting, which was very expensive, at an auction.'
d. Mijn echtgenoot, [RC die tolk is], spreekt zes talen.
  my husband,  who  interpreter  is,  speaks  six languages
  'My husband, who is an interpreter, speaks six languages.'

      Non-restrictive relative clauses can also be used to modify personal pronouns, provided that they have the full, non-reduced form. If the antecedent and the relative pronoun have the same syntactic function in the matrix and the relative clause, such constructions are perfectly acceptable. This is illustrated in (325) for cases in which both the antecedent and the relative pronoun function as subjects; observe that the finite verb of the relative clause agrees in number with the antecedent pronoun.

Example 325
a. Hij, [RC die daar zo mooi piano speelt3p.sg], is mijn broer.
  he  who  there  so beautifully  piano  plays  is my brother
  'He, who is playing the piano so beautifully, is my brother.'
b. Ik, [RC die altijd voor je heb1p.sg klaar gestaan], heb dit niet verdiend.
  who  always  for you  have  ready  stood  have this not deserved
  'I, who was always ready to help you, havenʼt deserved this.'
c. Zelfs jij, [RC die zoveel hebt2p.sg meegemaakt], hebt dit nooit gezien.
  even you  who  so much  has  experienced  has  this  never  seen
  'Even you, who has seen so much, has never seen such a thing.'
d. Jullie, [RC die al een geldig kaartje hebbenpl], mogen nu binnen.
  you  who  already  a valid ticket  have  may  now  inside
  'You, who already have a valid ticket, may enter immediately.'

In (326) the same thing is shown for object pronouns: the pronouns haar'her' and ons'us' function as direct objects in the matrix clauses, with the relative pronoun die fulfilling the same function in the relative clauses, and the result is fully acceptable.

Example 326
a. Ik had haar, [RC die ik altijd gemogen heb], graag geholpen.
  had  her  who  always  liked  have  gladly  helped
  'I would gladly have helped her, whom Iʼve always liked.'
b. Hij had ons, [RC die hij nog nooit gezien had], direct herkend.
  he  had  us  who  he  yet never  seen  had  directly  recognized
  'He had immediately recognized us, whom he had never seen before.'

      If the antecedent and the relative pronoun do not have the same syntactic function, the results are generally marked. The examples in (327) show this for cases in which the personal pronoun functions as a direct/indirect object of the matrix clause or the complement of a preposition, whereas the relative pronoun is the subject of the relative clause. In (327a&b), some speakers allow and even prefer the third singular form heeft to the first singular form heb.

Example 327
a. Hij heeft mij, [RC die hem toch zo geholpen ?heb1p.sg/%heeft3p.sg], nooit bedankt.
  he has  me  who  him  prt  so  helped  have/has  never  thanked
  'He has never thanked me, who helped him so much.'
b. Hij heeft mij, [RC die er speciaal om gevraagd ?heb1p.sg/%heeft3p.sg], een gesigneerd exemplaar gegeven.
  he  has  me  who  there  especially  for  asked  have/has a signed copy  given
  'He has given me, who especially asked for it, a signed copy.'
c. ? Hij heeft voor ons, [RC die zo hard gewerkt hebben], niets teruggedaan.
  he has  for us  who  so hard worked have  nothing  prt.-done
  'He has done nothing in return for us, who worked so hard.'

The examples in (328) show the same thing for cases in which the personal pronoun acts as the subject of the matrix clause and the relative pronoun as the direct or indirect object of the relative clause.

Example 328
a. ? Ik vind dat ik, [RC die ze ontslagen hebben], recht heb op een verklaring.
  find  that  who they fired have  right have  to an explanation
  'I think that I, who they have fired, have the right to an explanation.'
b. ? Ik vind dat ik, [RC die hij dat boek gestuurd heeft], hem moet bedanken.
  find  that  who  he  that book  sent  has him  must  thank
  'I think that I, who he has sent the book to, must thank him.'

      The marked examples in (327) and (328) all involve cases in which the personal pronoun functions as a subject and the relative pronoun as an object, or vice versa. If they function respectively as a direct and an indirect object, the constructions are fully acceptable. Examples can be found in (329).

Example 329
a. Ze hadden onsIO, [RC dieDO ze ontslagen hebben], een brief gestuurd.
  they  had  us  who  they  fired  have  a letter  sent
  'They had sent us, who they fired, a letter.'
b. Hij zal jouDO, [RC (aan) wieIO hij veel te danken heeft], graag helpen.
  he  has  you  to whom  he  much  to thank  has  gladly  help
  'He would be glad to help you, (to) who(m) he owes a great deal.'

      The data involving personal pronoun antecedents suggest that the personal pronoun can act as the antecedent of a relative pronoun with a different syntactic function as long as the personal pronoun has the morphological form that “matches” the syntactic function of the relative pronoun: if this is not the case, a marked result arises. This would account for the fact that the examples in (330) are fully acceptable despite the fact that the plural pronoun jullie'you' acts as the subject in the main clause whereas the relative pronoun acts respectively as a direct object, an indirect object and the complement of a preposition. This could be attributed to the fact that the form jullie can be used in all these functions. We will return to pronouns modified by a non-restrictive relative clause in Subsection IIID.

Example 330
a. Jullie, [RC die ik zo veel geholpen heb], hebben duidelijk gefaald.
  you  who  so much  helped  have  have  clearly  failed
  'You, who I have helped so much, have clearly failed.'
b. Jullie, [RC die ik zo veel hulp gegeven heb], hebben duidelijk gefaald.
  you  who  so much help  given have  have  clearly  failed
  'You, who I have helped so much, have clearly failed.'
c. Jullie [RC op wie ik zo vertrouwde] hebben duidelijk gefaald.
  you  on whom  so  relied  have  clearly  failed
[+]  B.  Non-restrictive relative clauses with indefinite antecedents

The examples in (331) show that non-restrictive relative clauses can also have an indefinite antecedent, that is, an antecedent the referent of which is assumed not to be identifiable for the hearer. The relative clauses do not function to restrict the set of possible referents, but simply provide extra information about the referent of the antecedent.

Example 331
a. Een student, [RC die mijn colleges volgt], heeft een boek van me geleend.
  a student  who my classes follows  has  a book  of me  borrowed
  'A student, who attends my classes, borrowed a book from me.'
b. Ik heb een boek geleend aan wat studenten, [RC die mijn college volgen].
  I have  a book  lent  to some students  who  my classes  follow
  'Iʼve lent a book to some students, all of whom attend my classes.'

In (331), the antecedent is interpreted specifically; the identity of the intended referent(s) is known to the speaker but not to the hearer. Indefinite antecedents of non-restrictive relative clauses can also be generic, as in (332), in which case the relative clause will be interpreted as providing generic information; both in the case of a plural and in the case of a singular antecedent, the information given in the relative clause must be taken to apply to the entire class of entities denoted by the antecedent, that is, to all students.

Example 332
a. Studenten, [RC die meestal weinig geld hebben], hebben vaak een baantje.
  students  who  usually  little money  have  have  often  a jobdim
  'Students, who usually have little money, often have a part-time job.'
b. Een student, [RC die vaak weinig geld heeft], heeft meestal een baantje.
  a student  who  often  little money  has  has  mostly  a jobdim
  'A student, who mostly has little money, usually has a part-time job.'

It is less clear whether non-restrictive relative clauses can be used to modify nonspecific indefinite antecedents, that is, to noun phrases referring to entities that are not familiar to the speaker. Example (333a) is fully acceptable, but it is not immediately clear whether we should construe the modified noun phrase as nonspecific or as generic; cf. Section 5.1.1.5, sub IC2. The most prominent reading of example (333b) is one in which the noun phrase is construed specifically, that is, as known to the speaker; the nonspecific interpretation of the noun phrase seems to give rise to a marked result and to favor an appositional reading of the relative clause. Although judgments are somewhat subtle, we conclude from this that it is impossible to modify nonspecific indefinite noun phrases by means of a non-restrictive relative clause, which could be attributed to the fact that speakers cannot provide additional information about entities not familiar to them.

Example 333
a. Ik verhuur kamers aan studenten, [RC die geen flat kunnen betalen].
  rent  rooms  to students  who  no flat  can  pay
  'I only rent rooms to students, who canʼt afford a flat.'
b. # Ik wil deze kamer aan een student verhuren, [RC die geen flat kan betalen].
  I want this room  to a student  rent  who  no flat  can pay
  'I rent this room to a student, who canʼt afford a flat.'
[+]  C.  Non-restrictive relative clauses with predicative antecedents

Non-restrictive relative clauses can be used to modify nominal predicates provided that the relative pronoun functions as the predicate of the relative clause. The examples in (334) show that in cases like these, the relative pronoun invariably has the form wat.

Example 334
a. Jan is een dwaas, [RC wat/*die ik niet ben].
  Jan is a fool  which/that  not  am
  'Jan is a fool, which Iʼm not.'
b. Els is een genie, [RC wat/*dat Peter bepaald niet is].
  Els is a genius  which/that  Peter  distinctly  not  is
  'Els is a genius, which Peter is certainly not.'
c. Jan en Els zijn voetbalfans, [RC wat/*die ik niet ben].
  Jan and Els  are  soccer fans  which/that  not  am
  'Jan and Els are soccer fans, which Iʼm not.'

      If the relative pronoun functions as an argument in a non-restrictive relative clause, it is sometimes difficult to establish what the antecedent of the relative clause is. Example (335a), for example, can easily be misanalyzed as a case involving a non-restrictive relative clause modifying the predicate een dwaas'a fool'. The correct analysis is the one in which the relative clause provides some specific information about the noun phrase die man'that man', which means that the relation of the relative clause to the nominal predicate is more indirect: the fact that the man always does as he is told is the reason why he is considered a fool. This use of the relative clause is characterized by the fact that primary accent is assigned to the relative clause, which provides new information about the antecedent. That the relative clause does not modify the predicate in examples like these is clear from the fact illustrated in (335b) that the pronoun die is replaced by its neuter counterpart dat if the non-neuter subject die man is replaced by the neuter noun phrase het meisje'the girl'. From this we may safely conclude that we are dealing with a relative clause in extraposed position that takes the subject of the clause as its antecedent, which is also supported by the fact that the primed examples are also acceptable.

Example 335
a. Die man is een dwaas, [RC die altijd doet wat hem gezegd wordt].
  that man  is a fool  who  always  does  what  him  said  is
  'That man is a fool, who always does as he is told.'
a'. Die man , [RC die altijd doet wat hem gezegd wordt], is een dwaas.
b. Dat meisje is een dwaas, [RC dat altijd doet wat haar gezegd wordt].
  that man  is a fool  who  always  does  what  her  said  is
b'. Dat meisje, [RC dat altijd doet wat haar gezegd wordt], is een dwaas.

Essentially the same thing is shown in (336), where the nominal predicate is the neuter noun genie'genius'. Again, the form of the relative pronoun is sensitive to the gender of the subject of the clause, not to that of the predicate.

Example 336
a. Dat meisje is een genie, [RC dat voortdurend miskend wordt].
  that girl is a genius  who  continuously  underestimated  is
  'That girl is a genius, who is continuously underestimated.'
a'. Dat meisje, [RC dat voortdurend miskend wordt], is een genie.
b. Die man is een genie, [RC die voortdurend miskend wordt].
  that man is a genius  who  continuously  underestimated  is
b'. Die man, [RC die voortdurend miskend wordt], is een genie.

A complicating factor with the examples in (335) and (336), which we ignored in the discussion above, is that it is not entirely clear whether we are really dealing with non-restrictive relative clauses: Subsection IIIA, will show that it is normally impossible to extrapose such clauses from subjects in clause-initial position, which means that we may actually be dealing with appositions. However, this does not affect the conclusion that we may draw from the data discussed so far, namely that a nominal predicate cannot be the antecedent of a non-restrictive relative clause if the relative pronoun functions as an argument.
      A potential problem for such a claim is presented by the somewhat marked examples in (337). In these examples, the relative clause is generic in the sense that it provides information about the whole class of fools/genial people: this use of the modifying clause is characterized by placing primary accent on the (adverbial) element expressing the generic nature of the relative clause. The fact that the relative clause provides information about the class denoted by the predicate makes it plausible to assume that it is not the subject but the predicate that functions as the antecedent of the relative clause.

Example 337
a. ? Jan is een dwaas, [RC die immers altijd doen wat ze gezegd wordt].
  Jan is a fool  who  after.all  always  do  what  them  said  is
  'Jan is a fool, who, as we know, always do as theyʼre told.'
b. ? Marie is een genie, [RC die per definitie miskend worden].
  Marie is a genius  which  by definition  underestimated  are
  'Marie is a genius, which by definition are not appreciated.'

It should be noted, however, that the relative pronoun does not agree in number with the nominal predicate: the predicate is singular, whereas the relative pronoun, which functions as the subject of the relative clause, triggers plural agreement on the finite verb. Note further that full agreement between the relative pronoun and the neuter nominal predicate een genie in (337b), would require that the former have the form dat (and not the plural form die). This lack of number and gender agreement suggests that we are not dealing with a relative construction in (337) at all, but with a construction of some other type. In this connection, it may be useful to refer to the sequences in (338), in which the anaphoric plural pronoun in the second sentence also refers to all the members of the class referred to by the singular generic subjects of the first sentence.

Example 338
a. Een genie wordt zelden tijdens zijn leven erkend. Ze zijn daarom vaak ongelukkig.
  a genius  is  seldom  during his life  recognized.  They  are therefore  often  unhappy.
  'A genius is rarely appreciated during his life. Thatʼs why theyʼre often unhappy.'
b. Een kat is een ideaal huisdier. Ze geven nauwelijks rommel.
  a cat  is an ideal pet.  They  give  hardly  mess
  'A cat is an ideal pet. They hardly give any mess.'

      From the discussion in this subsection, we conclude that non-restrictive relative clauses can only be used if the relative pronoun also functions as a predicate, in which case the pronoun must have the form wat.

[+]  II.  Different types of non-restrictive relative clauses

Non-restrictive relative clauses typically provide additional, non-identifying information about the referent(s) of their antecedent, and can therefore normally be left out without affecting the grammaticality or felicity of the construction, and with the addressee not being aware of any information left out. In this use, the non-restrictive relative clauses have a typical “by-the-way” function, and come very close to appositional constructions; cf. Section 3.1.3. The examples in (339) show that this purely additive nature of the information in the relative clause can be made explicit by adding the adverb overigens'by the way', which is unacceptable in the restrictive relative clauses in the primed examples.

Example 339
a. De auto, [RC die (overigens) van een Japans merk was], was erg duur.
  the car  which  by.the.way  of a Japanese brand was  was very expensive
  'The car, which, by the way, was of a Japanese brand, was very expensive.'
a'. De auto [RC die (*overigens) van een Japans merk was], was erg duur.
b. Mijn broer, [RC die (overigens) in Utrecht woont], komt vanavond ook.
  my brother  who  by.the.way  in Utrecht lives  comes  tonight  also
  'My brother, who, by the way, lives in Utrecht now, is also coming tonight.'
b'. Mijn broer [RC die (*overigens) in Utrecht woont], komt vanavond ook.

In some cases, however, the communicative function of the non-restrictive relative clause goes beyond this “by-the-way” function. The following subsections will discuss special uses of non-restrictive relative clauses, where the additional information provided in the clause plays an important part in (situating the modified noun phrase in) the larger context. In addition, we will pay some attention to cleft-sentences, which resemble non-restrictive relative clauses in several respects.

[+]  A.  Modifying the antecedent and the matrix clause

The additional information provided by the non-restrictive relative clause is not always restricted to the referent of the antecedent; often, the relative clause entertains an implicit adverbial-like relationship with the matrix clause. In example (340a), for instance, the relative clause can be construed as the reason for the immediate buying of the book. Likewise, the relative clauses in (340b-d) are all likely to be given a similar adverbial-like interpretation, expressing cause in (340b), concessive contrast in (340c), and a temporal relation in (340d).

Example 340
a. Ik heb het boek, [RC dat erg mooi was], direct gekocht.
  have  the book  that  very beautiful  was  immediately  bought
  'Iʼve bought the book, which was very beautiful, immediately.'
b. De man, [RC die een ongeluk heeft gehad], ligt nog steeds in coma.
  the man  who  an accident  has  had  is  still  in coma
  'The man, who had had an accident, is still in a coma.'
c. Ik heb het boek, [RC dat erg duur was], toch maar gekocht.
  have  the book  which  very expensive  was  after.all  prt  bought
  'Iʼve bought the book, which was very expensive, after all.'
d. De man, [RC die maandag arriveerde], vertrok de volgende dag weer.
  the man  who  Monday  arrived  left  the next day  again
  'The man, who arrived on Monday, left the next day.'

In examples like these, the non-restrictive relative clause is needed for a proper interpretation of other elements in the matrix clause; for instance, the adverbs nog steeds'still' in (340b) and the modal particle toch'after all' in (340c) can only be interpreted on the basis of the information given in the relative clause; similarly, the proper interpretation of the adverbial phrases weer'again' and de volgende dag'the next day' in (340d) depend on information given in the relative clause. Leaving out the relative clauses in these cases yields a grammatical but infelicitous result (unless the context provides the relevant information).

[+]  B.  Continuative relative clauses: discourse relevancy

Non-restrictive relative clauses are normally used to present additional or background information about the antecedent, as in (339), or about the antecedent and the event described in the matrix clause, as in (340). In either case the role of the relative clause is restricted to the sentence, and does not play a crucial role in the development of the discourse (conversation, story, arguments etc.). In some cases, however, non-restrictive relative clauses in sentence-final position may have, in terms of importance as well as discourse continuity, almost the status of a matrix clause. Such non-restrictive relative clauses are often called “continuative” or “consecutive”. Although from a purely syntactic point of view such relative clauses can be left out, omission of the relative clause would lead to an information gap, and therefore an incoherent discourse. First, consider the example in (341), in which the information provided by the relative clause is clearly background information, as shown by the fact that adding the modifier overigens'by the way' is perfectly acceptable.

Example 341
De zoon van het slachtoffer, [RC die (overigens) volhield onschuldig te zijn], werd gisteren door de politie gearresteerd. De arrestatie vond plaats ...
  the son of the victim  who  by.the.way  insisted  innocent  to be  was  yesterday  by the police  arrested  the arrest  took place
'The son of the victim, who (by the way) maintained his innocence, was yesterday arrested by the police. The arrest took place ...'

In (342a), on the other hand, the relative clause forms a crucial link in the discourse chain. As such the use of overigens is infelicitous, while a modifier like vervolgens'subsequently', which serves to enhance discourse coherence, is perfectly acceptable. The sequence in (342a) comes, therefore, very close to the sequence in (342b), where the same information is provided in a matrix clause.

Example 342
a. De politie heeft gisteren de zoon van het slachtoffer gearresteerd, [RC die vervolgens/*?overigens hulp inriep van een advocaat]. Deze advocaat ...
  the police  has  yesterday  the son of the victim  arrested  who subsequently/by.the.way  help  called  of a lawyer  this lawyer
  'Yesterday, the police arrested the son of the victim, who subsequently enlisted the immediate help of a well-known lawyer. This lawyer ...'
b. De politie heeft gisteren de zoon van het slachtoffer gearresteerd. Deze riep direct de hulp in van een advocaat. Deze advocaat ...
  the police  has  yesterday  the son of the victim  arrested.  the latter  called  directly  the help  prt.  of a lawyer  this lawyer
  'Yesterday, the police arrested the son of the victim. The latter enlisted the immediate help of a well-known lawyer. This lawyer ...'
[+]  C.  Cleft constructions

This subsection briefly mentions some of the properties of the cleft construction, as this construction contains a phrase closely resembling a relative clause. Despite the fact that there is no intonation break between the antecedent and the modifying clause, we will nevertheless analyze this modifying clause as non-restrictive, as it does not restrict the (possibly singleton) referent set of the antecedent, but modifies this antecedent as a whole. Such an analysis is supported by the fact that under all circumstances the antecedent can take the form of a proper noun or a uniquely referring expression (Smits 1989: 203).
      As can be seen from the examples in (343), cleft constructions characteristically contain the copular verb zijn and the impersonal pronoun het'it'. The modifying clause seems to contain a relative pronoun, which takes the non-pronominal phrase (which need not be a DP) as its antecedent. The function of the cleft construction as a whole is to emphasize the referent set of the antecedent, which is always given focal/contrastive accent.

Example 343
a. Het zijn de Amerikanen [die dit voor het eerst ontdekt hebben].
  it  are  the Americans  who  this  for the first  discovered  have
  'It is the Americans who first discovered this.'
b. Het was Jan [van wie ik het goede nieuws heb vernomen].
  it  was Jan   of who  the good news  have  heard
  'It was Jan from whom I heard the good news.'
c. Het is de president [die dit soort beslissingen dient te nemen].
  it  is the president  who  this sort [of] decisions  ought  to take
  'It is the president who ought to make this kind of decisions.'

The relative clause fulfills the crucial function of linking this antecedent to the ongoing discourse by supplying additional information. The relative clause in (343a), for example, clearly does not function to restrict the set of all Americans, but instead provides further information about this set as a whole. This additional information links the antecedent to the previous discourse, which is clear from the fact that the relative clause contains the deictic demonstrative pronoun dit'this', which can only be interpreted by appealing to information from the preceding context. When we abstract away from the contrastive function of the cleft construction, (343a) provides more or lesss the same information as the main clause De Amerikanen hebben dit voor het eerst ontdekt'The Americans discovered this first'. This means that leaving out the relative clause renders the construction infelicitous since this deprives the addressee from the information needed to properly relate the Americans to the topic of discussion and would leave the addressee wondering why reference is made to the entities denoted by the nominal predicate.

[+]  III.  The positions of antecedent and relative clause

Non-restrictive clauses always follow their antecedent. Although they need not be adjacent to it, in many cases relative clauses do immediately follow their antecedent. This is illustrated in (344) for cases in which the antecedent functions as a subject, a direct or indirect object, or the complement of a preposition.

Example 344
a. Jan, [RC die naast mij woont], speelt goed piano.
  Jan  who  next.to me  lives  plays  well  piano
  'Jan, who lives next to me, plays the piano well.'
b. Ik heb net voor het eerst mijn buurman, [RC die leraar is], ontmoet.
  have  just  for the first  my neighbor  who  teacher  is  met
  'Iʼve just met my neighbor, who is a teacher, for the first time.'
c. Ik heb Jan, [RC die ziek is], een leuke detective gegeven.
  I have Jan  who  ill  is  a nice detective  given
  'Iʼve given Jan, who is ill, a nice detective novel.'
d. Ik heb naar Jan, [RC die mooi piano speelt], geluisterd.
  have  to Jan  who  beautifully  piano  plays  listened
  'Iʼve listened to Jan, who plays the piano beautifully.'

As previously noted, the antecedent and the relative clause need not always be adjacent, and this subsection briefly discusses a number of issues relating to the positions of antecedent and relative clause. First we will consider cases in which the relative clause is in extraposed position, next we will look at the possibilities for topicalization, and we will conclude with a discussion of non-restrictive relative clauses with personal pronoun antecedent, which exhibit special behavior with regard to word order.

[+]  A.  Extraposition of the relative clause

The possibility of extraposition of non-restrictive relative clauses seems to be more or lesss the same as in the case of that of restrictive relative clauses discussed in Section 3.3.2.3.2, albeit that the result always tends to be slightly marked. Furthermore, it should be noted that giving judgments is often complicated by the fact that the resulting strings are generally also acceptable on an appositive reading, in which case the clause is preceded by a very distinct intonation break (a pause and usually a falling intonation much more pronounced than in the case of non-restrictive modifiers), which separates it from the preceding material, and emphasizes its parenthetical nature.
      Section 3.3.2.3.2, sub II, has shown that extraposition of a non-restrictive relative clause is possible from a subject provided that the latter does not occupy the canonical subject position to the immediate right of the complementizer. The examples in (345) show that the same thing holds for non-restrictive relative clauses. Whereas (345a) is only acceptable if pronounced with the intonation pattern typical of an appositional reading, the examples in (345b'&c') do not require this.

Example 345
Subject
a. Jan, [RC die naast mij woont], speelt goed piano.
  Jan  who  next.to me  lives  plays  well  piano
  'Jan, who lives next to me, plays the piano well.'
a'. * Jan speelt goed piano, [RC die naast mij woont].
b. dat er nu een pianist, [RC die prachtig speelt], naast me woont.
  that  there  now  a pianist  who  beautifully plays  next.to me  lives
  'that there lives a pianist next to me, who plays beautifully.'
b'. ? dat er nu een pianist naast me woont, [RC die prachtig speelt].
c. dat waarschijnlijk de pianist, [RC die prachtig speelt], wordt gekozen.
  that  probably  the pianist  who  beautifully plays  is  chosen
  'that the pianist will be chosen, who plays beautifully.'
c'. ? dat waarschijnlijk de pianist wordt gekozen, [RC die prachtig speelt].

      Example (346b) shows that extraposition of a non-restrictive relative clause from a direct object antecedent seems possible: of course, we may be dealing here with an apposition as well, but it seems that we do not have to pronounce this example with the intonation pattern associated with appositions. In this respect, example (346b) crucially differs from the (c)-examples in (346), which involve, repectively, scrambling and topicalization of the direct object and which are only acceptable with the intonation pattern associated with appositions.

Example 346
Direct object
a. Ik heb net voor het eerst mijn buurman, [RC die leraar is], ontmoet.
  have  just  for the first  my neighbor  who  teacher  is  met
  'Yesterday I met my neighbor, who is a teacher, for the first time.'
b. Ik heb net voor het eerst mijn buurman ontmoet, [RC die leraar is].
c. # Ik heb mijn buurman net voor het eerst ontmoet, [RC die leraar is].
c'. # Mijn buurman heb ik net voor het eerst ontmoet, [RC die leraar is].

      Extraposition of non-restrictive relative clauses seems to give rise to a slightly marked result if the antecedent is the complement of a preposition. This is illustrated in (347b) for a prepositional indirect object and in (348b) for a PP-complement of the verb. The (c)-examples show that topicalization of the PP makes the result unacceptable on the intended non-appositional reading. Note that, just as in the case of extraposition of restrictive relative clauses, the markedness of the (b)-examples might be due to the fact that the (b)-examples compete with constructions in which the full PP is in extraposed position.

Example 347
Prepositional indirect object
a. Ik heb die leuke detective aan Jan, [RC die ziek is], gegeven.
  have  that nice detective  to Jan  who  ill  is  given
  'Iʼve given that nice detective novel to Jan, who is ill.'
b. ? Ik heb die leuke detective aan Jan gegeven, [RC die ziek is].
c. # Aan Jan heb ik die leuke detective gegeven, [RC die ziek is].
Example 348
PP-complement
a. Ik heb naar Jan, [RC die mooi piano speelt], geluisterd.
  have  to Jan  who  beautifully  piano  plays  listened
  'Iʼve listened to Jan, who plays the piano beautifully.'
b. ? Ik heb naar Jan geluisterd, [RC die mooi piano speelt].
c. # Naar Jan heb ik geluisterd, [RC die mooi piano speelt].

      Section 3.3.2.3.2, sub II, has also shown that extraposition of restrictive relative clauses from nominal indirect objects is possible provided that the indirect object is preceded by the direct object. The examples in (349) show that the same thing holds for non-restrictive relative clauses: the examples in (349c&d), in which the direct object precedes the indirect object as the result of, respectively, scrambling and topicalization, are considerably better than example (349b), in which the direct object follows the indirect object.

Example 349
Nominal indirect object
a. Ik heb Jan, [RC die ziek is], die leuke detective gegeven.
  have  Jan  who  ill  is  that nice detective  given
  'Iʼve given Jan, who is ill, that nice detective novel.'
b. * Ik heb Jan die leuke detective gegeven, [RC die ziek is].
c. ? Ik heb het Jan gegeven, [RC die ziek is].
  have  it  Jan  given  who  ill  is
d. ? Die leuke detective heb Jan gegeven, [RC die ziek is].

      The data in (349) suggest that a non-restrictive relative clause in extraposed position must be construed with the first noun phrase to its left. This receives more support from the contrast between the primeless and primed examples in (350). The unacceptability of (350a') can of course be accounted for by appealing to the freezing principle, given that the word order in this example is derived by leftward movement of the prepositional indirect object. The unacceptability of (351b), on the other hand, cannot be accounted for in the same way, given that we are dealing here with the underlying order of the two arguments. The fact that leftward movement of the prepositional indirect object in (350b'&b'') makes this example fully acceptable therefore supports the claim that an extraposed non-restrictive relative clause must be construed with the first noun phrase to its left.

Example 350
Direct object construction
a. Ik heb een boek aan Peter gegeven, [RC die ziek is].
  have  a book  to Peter  given  who  ill  is
a'. * Ik heb aan Peter een boek gegeven, [RC die ziek is].
b. *? Ik heb ?een/*?het boek aan Peter gegeven, [RC1 dat over WO II gaat].
  have   a/the book  to Peter  given  that  about WW II  goes
b'. Ik heb aan Peter een/het boek gegeven, [RC1 dat over WO II gaat].
b''. Aan Peter heb ik een/het boek gegeven, [RC1 dat over WO II gaat].
[+]  B.  Multiple relative clauses in extraposed position

The conclusion that an extraposed non-restrictive relative clause must be construed with the first noun phrase to its left predicts that if a sentence contains two non-restrictive relative clauses modifying different DPs, only the second relative clause can be in extraposed position. The examples in (351) show that this prediction is correct: example (351a) simply gives the unmarked order without extraposition; the (b)-examples show that, as expected, extraposition of RC2 gives rise to an acceptable (though marked) result, whereas extraposition of RC1 gives rise to an unacceptable result; the (c)-examples show that extraposition of both relative clauses is impossible regardless of their order.

Example 351
a. Ik heb een boek, [RC1 dat over WO II gaat], aan Peter, [RC2 die ziek is], gegeven.
  have  a book  which  about WW II  goes  to Peter  who  ill  is  given
  'Iʼve given a book, which deals with WW II, to Peter, who is ill.'
b. Ik heb een boek, dat over WO II gaat, aan Peter gegeven, die ziek is.
b'. * Ik heb een boek aan Peter, die ziek is, gegeven, dat over WO II gaat.
c. * Ik heb een boek aan Peter gegeven, dat over WO II gaat, die ziek is.
c'. * Ik heb een boek aan Peter gegeven, die ziek is, dat over WO II gaat.

      If two non-restrictive relative clauses modify a single antecedent, extraposition is also excluded. Section 3.3.2.3.4, sub I, will show that stacking of non-restrictive relative clauses is severely restricted, but not impossible: if the two stacked relative clauses are introduced by different relative pronouns and if the relation between the two relative clauses is specified, as (352a) the result may be more or lesss acceptable, although a structure in which the two relative clauses are coordinated is much preferred; cf. the fully acceptable Ik heb Els uitgenodigd, die hiernaast woont en met wie ik (bovendien) bevriend ben. The two (b)-examples show that extraposition of the relative clauses is categorically impossible.

Example 352
a. Ik heb Els, [RC die hiernaast woont], [RC met wie ik ??(bovendien) bevriend ben], uitgenodigd.
  have  Els  who  next.door  lives with  whom   moreover  friendly  am  invited
  'Iʼve invited Els, who lives next door and who is a friend of mine.'
b. * Ik heb E., die hiernaast woont, uitgenodigd, met wie ik (bovendien) bevriend ben.
b'. * Ik heb E. uitgenodigd, die hiernaast woont, met wie ik (bovendien) bevriend ben.
[+]  C.  Leftward movement of the antecedent

Scrambling of the antecedent and relative clause together is possible, as shown by (353b) for direct object antecedents. Example (353c) shows that scrambling of the direct object cannot strand the non-restrictive relative clause, and (353d) illustrates that scrambling of the antecedent is also impossible if the relative clause is in extraposed position. The examples in (354) illustrate the same thing for a prepositional indirect object antecedent.

Example 353
a. Ik heb net mijn buurman, [RC die hier onlangs is komen wonen], ontmoet.
  I have just my neighbor  who  here recently  is come live  met
  'Iʼve just met my neighbor, who recently came to live here.'
b. Ik heb mijn buurman, [RC die hier onlangs is komen wonen], net ontmoet.
c. * Ik heb mijn buurman net, [RC die hier onlangs is komen wonen], ontmoet.
d. * Ik heb mijn buurman net ontmoet, [RC die hier onlangs is komen wonen].
Example 354
a. Ik heb dat boek over WO II aan Peter, [RC die ziek is], gegeven.
  have  het book about WW II  to Peter  who  ill  is  given
  'I gave that book on WW II to Peter, who is ill.'
b. Ik heb aan Peter, [RC die ziek is], dat boek over WO II gegeven.
c. * Ik heb aan Peter dat boek over WO II, [RC die ziek is], gegeven.
d. * Ik heb aan Peter dat boek over WO II gegeven, [RC die ziek is].

      Topicalization of both antecedent and restrictive relative clause is possible. This is true regardless of the syntactic function of the antecedent. This is illustrated in the (b)-examples of (355) and (356) for antecedents functioning, respectively, as a direct and an indirect object. The (c)-examples show that topicalization cannot strand the relative clause in the original position of the object. The (d)-examples show that, unlike in constructions with restrictive relative clauses, splitting the antecedent and the relative clause by topicalizing the former and extraposing the latter is excluded: (355d) is acceptable but only on a (restrictive) appositive reading (see Section 3.1.3) and example (356d) is completely unacceptable.

Example 355
a. Ik heb net mijn buurman, [RC die hier onlangs is komen wonen], ontmoet.
  I have just my neighbor  who  here recently  is come live  met
  'Iʼve just met my neighbor, who recently came to live here.'
b. Mijn buurman, [RC die hier onlangs is komen wonen], heb ik net ontmoet.
c. * Mijn buurman heb ik net, [RC die hier onlangs is komen wonen], ontmoet.
d. * Mijn buurman heb ik net ontmoet, [RC die hier onlangs is komen wonen].
Example 356
a. Ik heb dat boek over WO II aan Peter, [RC die ziek is], gegeven.
  have  het book about WW II  to Peter  who  ill  is  given
  'I gave that book on WW II to Peter, who is ill.'
b. Aan Peter, [RC die ziek is], heb ik dat boek over WO II gegeven.
c. * Aan Peter heb ik dat boek over WO II, [RC die ziek is], gegeven.
d. * Aan Peter heb ik dat boek over WO II gegeven, [RC die ziek is].
[+]  D.  A special case: personal pronoun antecedents

Subsection IA has shown that non-restrictive relative clauses can be used to modify personal pronouns: if the antecedent and the relative pronoun have the same syntactic function (in the matrix clause and relative clause, respectively) such constructions are perfectly acceptable; if the antecedent and the relative pronoun do not have the same syntactic function, the result is somewhat marked if either the relative pronoun or the antecedent functions as a subject.
      In the case of topicalization the results are somewhat different, however: the examples in (357) seem to indicate that topicalization of the object of the matrix clause is possible only in those cases in which the antecedent and the relative pronoun have the same syntactic function. The examples in (357), for example, in which the antecedent hem'him' and the relative pronouns function as direct objects, are fully acceptable.

Example 357
a. Hem, [RC die ze ontslagen hebben], hebben ze niet uitgenodigd.
  him  who  they  fired  have  have  they  not  invited
b. Hem, [RC die Marie aan me voorstelde], had ik nooit eerder gezien.
  him  who  Marie to me  introduced  had  never  before  seen
  'Him, who Marie introduced to me, Iʼd never seen before.'

If, on the other hand, the relative pronoun has the function of subject of the relative clause, as in (358), the result is highly marked.

Example 358
a. *? Hem, [RC die er om gevraagd had], hebben ze niet uitgenodigd.
  him  who  there  for  asked  has  have  they  not  invited
b. *? Hem, [RC die daar met Marie praat], heb ik nooit eerder gezien.
  him  who  there  with  Marie  talks  have  never  before  seen

      Example (359a) shows, however, that examples such as (358) improve if the topicalized object pronoun takes the subject form that corresponds to the function of the relative pronoun in the relative clause. As shown by example (359b), this form ( hij'he') is not acceptable if the direct object is in its regular position in the middle field of the clause.

Example 359
a. ? Hij, [RC die daar met Marie praat], heb ik nooit eerder gezien.
  he  who  there  with Marie  talks  have  never  before  seen
b. Ik heb hem/*hij, [RC die daar met Marie praat], nooit eerder gezien.
  have  him/he  who  there  with Marie  talks  never  before  seen

      Note further that this option of using the nominative form only arises with the direct object; if the antecedent functions as the indirect object of the matrix clause, the subject form can never be used, regardless of whether the object is in topicalized position or in its regular position in the middle field of the clause. This is shown by (360).

Example 360
a. * Hij, [RC die er om gevraagd had], hebben ze een exemplaar toegestuurd.
  he  who there for asked had  have  they  a copy  prt.-sent
b. Ze hebben hem/*hij, [RC die er om gevraagd had], een exemplaar toegestuurd.

      The examples in (361), finally, show that in other cases in which the antecedent and the relative pronoun perform different syntactic functions similar problem do not arise. For example, in (361a) the antecedent has the function of indirect object whereas the relative pronoun functions as direct object, but still topicalization is possible. And in (361b) the antecedent functions as a direct object whereas the relative pronoun is part of the adverbial phrase, and does not even function as an argument in the relative clause. From this we may conclude that topicalization is possible if the antecedent pronoun has the morphological form required by the syntactic function of the relative pronoun in the relative clause. In this respect, non-restrictive relative clauses behave just like restrictive ones; cf. Section 3.3.2.3.2, sub IIE.

Example 361
a. Mij, [RC die ze vergeten waren], hebben ze later een exemplaar gestuurd.
  me  who  they  forgotten were  have they later a copy  sent
  'They have sent me, who they had forgotten, a copy later.'
b. Haar, [RC met wie Els staat te praten], heb ik nooit eerder gezien.
  her  with whom  Els stands  to talk  have  never  before  seen
  'Her, with whom Els is talking, Iʼve never seen before.'
References:
  • Smits, R.J.C1989The relative and cleft constructions of the Germanic and Romance languagesTilburgTilburg UniversityThesis
Suggestions for further reading ▼
phonology
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
morphology
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
syntax
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
  • As prepositional complement
    [89%] Frisian > Syntax > Nouns & Noun Phrases > Modification > Relative clauses > Syntactic function
  • As prepositional complement
    [88%] Frisian > Syntax > Nouns & Noun Phrases > Modification > Free relative clauses > Function
  • Case
    [87%] Frisian > Syntax > Nouns & Noun Phrases > Modification > Relative clauses > Personal pronouns as antecedent
  • The pronominal possessive construction
    [87%] Frisian > Syntax > Nouns & Noun Phrases > Modification > Relative clauses > Syntactic function > As possessor
  • Complete infinitival clause
    [87%] Frisian > Syntax > Adjective Phrases > Modification and degree quantification > High degree specification > With infinitival clauses
Show more ▼
cite
print
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.