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The prenominal origin of relative clauses

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Guglielmo Cinque - University of Venice (

Department of Linguistics, University of Hong Kong - May 5, 2009
I. Introduction.
(1)a The [ book [RC that we read ]] English (externally headed postnominal)

b [[RC nuna ranti-shqa-n] bestya].. Quechua (Cole 1987,279) (externally headed prenominal)

man buy-PERF-3 horse.NOM..

‘the horse the man bought..’

c [[RC nuna bestya-ta ranti-shqa-n]] (alli bestya-m) Quechua (Cole 1987,279) (internally headed)

man horse.ACC buy-PERF-3 good horse..

‘the horse the man bought (was a good horse)’

d [RC what you did ] (is nice) English (‘headless’, or free)

e [RC jo laRkii khaRii hai] vo laRkii lambii hai Hindi (Dayal 1996) (correlative)

which girl standing is that girl tall is

‘The girl who is standing is tall’
(2) [DP the [CP book [C’ that [IP we read t ]]]] (Kayne 1994)

II. A left-right asymmetry.
(3) Greenberg’s (1963) Universal 20: “When any or all of the items (demonstrative, numeral, and descriptive adjective) precede the noun, they are always found in that order. If they follow, the order is either the same or its exact opposite.”

5BOrder of demonstratives, numerals, and adjectives (Greenberg 1963,Hawkins 1983,Cinque 2005a)

(4)a Dem > Num > A > N Chinese, English, Georgian, Nama, Ket, Lezgian, Turkish,…

b *A > Num > Dem > N 0

c N> Dem > Num > A Kikuyu, Turkana, Rendille, Nkore-Kiga, Noni, Abu‘, Arbore…

d N > A > Num > Dem Amele, Gungbe, Igbo, Mao Naga, Swahili, Yoruba, Selepet,…

Order of (attributive) adjectives: (Hetzron 1978; Sproat and Shih 1991; Cinque 1994, Scott 2002)

(5)a Asize > Acolor > Anationality > N (English, Bulgarian…)

b * Anationality > Acolor > Asize > N 0

c N > Asize > Acolor > Anationality (Welsh, Irish, Maltese…)F1

d N > Anationality > Acolor > Asize (Indonesian,Yoruba,…)
Order of adverbs: (Cinque 1999,42f, Pearson 2000, Rakowski and Travis 2000)

(6)a Advno longer > Advalways > Advcompletely > V (English, Chinese,…)

b * Advcompletely > Advalways > Advno longer > V 0

c V > Advno longer > Advalways > Advcompletely ((main clause) German, Italian…)

d V > Advcompletely > Advalways > Advno longer (Malagasy, Niuean,…)

Order of circumstantial PPs (Boisson 1981, Cinque 2002, Hinterhölzl 2002, Schweikert 2005)

(7)a Temp > Loc > Manner V (Turkish, Nambikuara,.. - Kornfilt p.c., Kroeker (2001,3))

0Bb *Manner > Loc > Temp > V 0

c V > Temp > Loc > Manner (V/2 clause German,..)

1Bd V > Manner > Loc > Temp (Italian, Norwegian,..)

Order of (speech act) Mood, Tense, and Aspect morphemes (Cinque to appear)

(8)a Mood Tense Aspect V (Nama, Yoruba,…)

b *Aspect Tense Mood V 0

c V Mood Tense Aspect (Comox,..)

d V Aspect Tense Mood (Korean, Malayalam,…)
(9) [DP…[YP RC [YP Y [… [NP N ]]]]]

6BIII. The structural location of RCs in the DP (a brief cross-linguistic look)

7B(10) Dem RC Num A N :

North Caucasian: Archi, (Testelec 1998,277), Ingush (Rijkhoff 2002,310)

Dravidian: Malayalam (Jayaseelan, p.c.), Telugu (Jayaseelan, p.c.)

Cushitic: Wolaytta (Lamberti and Sottile 1997,215)

Tibeto-Burman: Chantyal (Noonan 2003,329), Kham (Watters 2002,195)

2B(11)a Malayalam (Dravidian - K.A. Jayaseelan, p.c.)

aa [nammaL kaND-a] muunn kaRutta naay-kkaL

those [ we saw-Rel ] three black dog-PL

‘those three black dogs that we saw’

b Wolaytta (West Cushitic – Lamberti and Sottile 1997,215)

he [taa-w kuttuwa ehida] iccashu adussa laagge-t-I

those me-to chicken having-brought five tall friend-pl.-subj.

‘those five tall friends who brought me a chicken’
(12) N A Num RC Dem

Amazonian: Canela-Krahô (Popjes and Popjes 1986)

Austronesian: Buginese (Simpson 2001,13), Ponapean (Rehg 1981,124), Tetun Dili (van Engelenhoven and Williams-van Klinken 2005,758). Tobati (Donohue 2002,193)

Mon-Khmer: Kammu (or Khmu’) (Svantesson 1986,49)

Niger-Congo: Gungbe (Aboh, p.c.), Lango (Noonan 1992,156), Yoruba (O. Ajiboye p.c.)

Paman: Kugu Nganhcara (Smith and Johnson 2000,430)

Papuan: One (Donohue 2000,9)

Semitic: Sudanese Arabic (Hatim Abbas Hassan, p.c.)

Tai-Kadai: Thai (Den Dikken and Singhapreecha 2004)
(13)a Lango (Niger-Congo - Noonan 1992, 156)

gwóggî à dÒŋò àryÓ [ámê lócə ònèkò]-nì

dogs ATT big two [Rel-Part man 3sg.kill.Perf]-this

‘These two big dogs that the man killed’

b Ponapean (Austronesian - Rehg 1981,124)

pwutak reirei silimen [me lalaid]-o

boy tall three [who]-that

‘those three tall boys who are fishing’

(14) [DemP D° [RC X° [NumP Y° [AP Z° [NP]]]]]
(15)a RC Dem Num A N (alternative orders in Chinese, Japanese, Malayalam, etc.)

b N A Num Dem RC (Lewo (Austronesian), Vitu (Papuan), etc.)

(16) RC Dem t Num A N

(17) Dem Num RC A N Karata (Testelec 1998,277), Chinese (one order) (Lu 1990,4,20)

(18) Karata (North Caucasian – cf. Testelec 1998,277)

hab k’eda [dena raxw-araj] č’ikororaj igruška-bdi…

this two I bring-PRT nice toy-PL

‘these two nice toys which I had brought…’

(19) “In Dutch (as well as e.g. in German and Frisian) the preposed participial construction follows the demonstrative and the numeral” (Rijkhoff 1998,362) (and, we may add, precedes “direct modification” adjectives)

3BGerman (W. Schweikert, p.c.)

(20)a Diese drei [in ihrem Büro arbeitenden] Männer

b ??Diese [in ihrem Büro arbeitenden] drei Männer

‘these three men working in the office’
(21)a Der [kürzlich angekommene] ehemalige Botschafter von Chile

b ??Der ehemalige [kürzlich angekommene] Botschafter von Chile [non-parenthetical]

‘the recently arrived former ambassadors of Chile’
(22) N A RC Num Dem Khmer (Simpson 2005,806)
(23) RCappositive Qall Dem RCrestrictive Num RCreduced A N 

(Cinque 2008, fn25, based on Kameshima 1989)

8BIV. The “raising” and the “matching” derivation of RCs (apparent need for both. See, among others: Carlson 1977, Heim 1987, Ǻfarli 1994, Grosu and Landmann 1998, Sauerland 1998,1999, 2003, Bhatt 2002, Aoun and Li 2003, Szczegielniak 2005, Hulsey and Sauerland 2006).

Evidence for the raising derivation (cf. (2) above).
a) RCs whose Head is an idiom chunk

(24) The headway that John made was substantial (Brame 1976,127)

(vs. *The headway that John disliked was substantial)
b) RCs whose Head receives an amount reading

(25) The pounds that Max weighs make little difference (Carlson 1977,531)

The number x such that Max weighs x-many pounds (make little difference)
c) RCs whose Head displays “Inverse (Case) Attraction”:

(26) doxtar ey ra [ke jon mišnose] inja æs (Dari (Afghan Farsi) - Houston 1974,43)

girl art acc comp John know.3 here be.3

‘the girl that John knows is here’

Evidence for the matching derivation.
a) Evidence from the non obligatory reconstruction of the Head w.r.t. Principle C
(27)a The pictures of Marsdeni which hei displays prominently are generally the attractive ones (Safir 1998, cited in Sauerland 1999,354)
vs. the obligatory reconstruction of interrogative wh-phrases and RC internal wh-phrases:
(28)a *Which pictures of Marsdeni does hei display prominently? (Sauerland 1999,354)

b *I respect any writer whose depiction of Johni hei’ll object to (Safir 1998, cited in Sauerland 1999,355)

b) Further cases of non-reconstruction of the Head: der- vs. som-relatives in Norwegian (Ǻfarli 1994); indefinite (0) vs. definite (yalli) relatives in Lebanese Arabic (Aoun and Li 2003); który/ kotoryj vs. co/čto relatives in Polish and Russian (Szczegielniak 2005); which vs. that relatives in English (Ǻfarli 1994, Aoun and Li 2003); Finnish RCs with relative pronouns (Manninen 2003).

c) Full repetition of the Head inside the relative clause:

(29) Non hanno ancora trovato una sostanza [dalla quale sostanza ricavare un rimedio contro l’epilessia] ‘They have not found a substance from which substance to obtain a remedy against epilepsy’ (Italian - cf. Cinque 1978,88f)
(30) Loci natura erat haec quem locum nostri delegerant (Latin – Keenan 1985,153)

Of the ground nature was this which ground our (men) chose

‘The nature of the ground which our men chose was this’
(31) skə̀n [nàm dzán skə̀n syì] há diyà gáy kà (Mina (Chadic)- Frajzyngier and Johnston 2005,433)F2

thing [1du find thing discourse marker] 2sg put spoil pos

‘The thing we found, you are ruining it’
vs. full repetition of interrogative wh-phrases
(32)a *Quale sostanza credi quale sostanza abbiano ricavato?

b *Quale sostanza credi abbiano ricavato quale sostanza?

Which substance do you think which substance they obtained which substance?
d) Negative Polarity Licensing (Citko 2001)
(33)a I don’t think he could trust anyone

b*I don’t think everyone could trust anyone

(34) Nobody found a picture of anyone which everybody liked

Two syntactic phenomena discriminating between “raising”and “matching”.

stacking (Carlson 1977):

idiom chunk:

(35) *Jake noticed the headway we made that Fred said we couldn’t make (Carlson 1977,540)


(36) *This desk weighs every pound they said it would weigh that I had hoped it wouldn’t (weigh) (Carlson 1977,540)

inverse Case attraction:

(37) *?Zani-ro ke diruz  didi ke har kasi doost dare bebine inja-st (Razieh Beyraghdar,p.c.)

(the) woman-ACC that yesterday saw-2sg. that each person pleasure has to see here-is3sg.

‘the woman that you saw yesterday that everybody would like to see is here’

extraposition (Hulsey and Sauerland 2006):

idiom chunk:

(38) *Mary praised the headway last year that John made (Hulsey and Sauerland 2006,114)


(39) *It will take us all year to drink the champagne in France that he spilled at the party (Szczegielniak 2005,71) [the asterisk refers to the amount reading]

inverse Case attraction:

(40) *doxtar ey ra inja æs [ke jon mišnose] (Dari (Afghan Farsi) - Houston 1974,43)

girl art acc here be.3 comp John know.3

‘the girl is here that John knows’

V. A (simplified) unified structure for “raising” and “matching” RCs.

(41) DP






IP dP1= External Head

John I two

V dP2= Internal Head

bought AP

NumP nice

two NP

AP NP books

nice books








IP dP1= External Head

John I two

V dP2= Internal Head

bought AP

NumP nice

two NP

AP books




(43) DP






IP dP1= External Head


John I two

V dP2= Internal Head

bought AP

NumP nice

two NP

AP books




VI. Potential Problems

(44) [The pictures of Marsdeni [which pictures of Marsdeni hei displays which pictures of Marsdeni prominently] pictures of Marsdeni ] are generally the attractive ones (cf. Safir 1998)

(45) [The headwayi that [he made headwayi] headway] was satisfactory

(46) [The AMOUNT of headway that [he made AMOUNT of headway] AMOUNT] was satisfactory

VII. Externally Headed Prenominal RCs:

Raising (cf. 47)): dP2 is attracted to Spec,C2, from where it controls the deletion of dP1; after which the remnant raises to Spec,C1.F3F Reconstruction effects are expected as the overt Head is the ‘internal’one (linked to the trace). And so is sensitivity to islands, due to the movement of the ‘internal’ Head.
(47) DP This case seems to be instantiated by Chinese, which displays both relativization

of idiom chunks (hence reconstruction) and island sensitivity (Aoun and Li 2003,

177), and Modern Tamil, where, according to Annamalai and Steever (1998,123),

D prenominal relative clauses are sensitive to islands.F4F




IP dP1
DP book

John I




Matching (cf. (48)): dP1 directly controls the deletion of dP2 backward. No reconstruction effects are expected, as the overt Head is the ‘external’ one (the ‘internal’ Head not having moved). Nor is sensitivity to islands, as no movement of the internal Head is involved.
(48) DP This case may be instantiated by Tsez (Northeast Caucasian), which

apparently shows no island sensitivity (Comrie and Polinsky 1999).





IP dP1
DP book

John I

dP2 V



VIII. Internally headed RCs (which often alternate with prenominal RCs – Cole 1987):

Matching: dP2 directly controls the deletion of dP1 forward.F5F
(49) DP





IP dP1
DP book

John I




The indefiniteness restriction of the internal Head of certain languages, which only have “matching” (Lakhota – Williamson 1987, Diegueño - Gorbet 1976, and Mojave - Munro 1976, with the same cluster of properties: indefiniteness restriction, the possibility of stacking and the absence of island sensitivity) follows from the indefinite character of the external Head and deletion in situ under strict identity of the two Heads).
Raising: in those languages that show no indefinite restrictionF6F (Japanese, Korean, Quechua, Navajo, and Haida, among other languages). Given their island sensitivity, it is tempting to see this second type as involving movement (differently from the first type); more specifically as involving the “raising” derivation in (50), where the internal Head, dP2, is attracted to Spec,C2, from where it controls the deletion of dP1, the external Head. After that a phrase of the Remnant must be taken to raise to Spec,C1, higher than the (strong) determiners.F7F In this case, reconstruction effects are expected (as the overt Head is the ‘internal’ one, linked to the trace), as is sensitivity to islands, due to the movement of the internal Head.






IP dP1
DP book

John I

V dP2



IX. ‘Headless’ or Free RCs

(51)a (I don’t like) [[ what THING you said] (SUCH) THING]

b (He weighs) [[ what AMOUNT you weigh] (SUCH) AMOUNT]

c (Here is) [[ where PLACE they slept] THERE PLACE]

d (I was there) [[ when TIME he said that] THEN TIME]

e (She hates [[ whoever PERSON does that ] (SUCH) PERSON]

(52) [ Mary (taku) kağe] ki] ophewatų (Lakhota – Williamson 1987)

M. (something) make the I-buy

‘I bought what Mary made’
In certain languages the “dummy” Head (thing, place, time, person, etc.) is necessarily overt (‘thing you said’ = ‘what you said’; ..): Rapanui (Austronesian)– Du Feu 1996,47; Obolo (Niger-Congo) – Faraclas 1984,45; Abun (Papuan) – Berry and Berry 1999,146ff.

X. Correlative RCs: In addition to the (possibly multiply headed) adjunct correlative, the correlative RC can be analysed as the left dislocation of either a Headless (‘Free’), or an Internally Headed, or an externally Headed, RC, matched by a resumptive DP (often pronominal/demonstrative) in the matrix clause.

In each case, it is the entire DP that is left dislocated, and resumed by a correlative DP.

See the Marathi (Indo-Aryan) paradigm in (50), from Wali (2006,289) (based in part on Junghare 1974), which points to the underlying structure in (49):
(49) [ti mulgi [ji mulgi ghari geli]] ti mulgi ithe raathe (*)

[that girl [which girl home went]] that girl here lives

‘the girl who went home lives here’
(50)a [ti mulgi [ji 0 ghari geli]] ti 0 ithe raathe

b [ti 0 [ji mulgi ghari geli]] ti 0 ithe raathe

c [ti 0 [ji 0 ghari geli]] ti mulgi ithe raathe


d [0 0 [ji mulgi ghari geli]] ti 0 ithe raathe

e [0 0 [ji 0 ghari geli]] ti mulgi ithe raathe

f [0 0 [ 0 0 ghari geli]] ti mulgi ithe raathe


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1 While the relative order of postnominal adjectives of Size, Color, and Nationality in Welsh is the same as the order of the same adjectives in prenominal position in English (cf. Sproat and Shih 1991, Rouveret 1994, Plank 2006), other adjectives (among which quality, age, the functional adjective other, and demonstratives) show a (postnominal) order which is the mirror image of the English order: N Asize Acolor Anationality Aage Aquality “other” Dem (Willis 2006).

If movement of the NP (or phrases containing the NP) rather than head movement is responsible for DP internal orders (Cinque 2005a), this mixture of direct and mirror-image orders of nominal modifiers can be reconciled with a unique, universal, base structure.

2 Frajzyngier and Johnston (2005) explicitly say that “[t]he relativized object may be coded twice, once at the beginning of the clause as the head of the relative clause, and the second time after the verb, in the position of object.” (p.432f).

3 Bulgarian offers interesting evidence that the internal Head raises to a position lower than that to which the external Head raises, the former being lower than Topic/Focus phrases, and the latter higher. See (i)-(ii), from Krapova (2008):

(i)a [[Na Bălgarija]i natiskăt deto Evropa okazva ti ] e nepravomeren

[On Bulgaria the.pressure that Europe exerts] is illegal ‘The pressure that Europe exerts on Bulgaria is illegal’

b *[Natiskăt [na Bălgarija]i deto Evropa okazva ti ] e nepravomeren

(ii)a Imam predvid [momičeto [ot Plovdiv]i deto e ti ]

I intend the.girl from Plovdiv that is ‘I intend the girl that is from Plovdiv’

4 Also see the Inverse Case Attraction option of the Malayalam relative clause in (i),which Abraham (1978,64) takes as evidence for the movement of the Head (cf. the analysis of Inverse Case Attraction in terms of “raising” in Cinque 2007, 99-101): (i) [saar innale sakaariccillee oru vidyaarthi-ye ] avan innu vannilla

teacher yesterday scold.PST.TAG one student-ACC he today come.PST.NEG

‘The student whom the teacher scolded yesterday did not come today’

5 Note that in the “matching” derivation of internally headed relative clauses ((23)), as well as in the “matching” derivation of externally headed prenominal relatives ((22)), neither Head c-commands the other from its in situ position. As with VP deletion, which can take place either backward or forward in the same language, one should expect deletion here to freely apply either backward or forward, with the consequence that the language may give the impression of having two separate strategies of relative clause formation (external prenominal and internal) (cf. Cole’s observation that often externally headed prenominal relatives alternate with internally headed relatives within the same language).

6 Although the Head internal relative clauses of the Gur languages Mooré (Peterson 1974, Tellier 1989) and Buli (Hiraiwa 2005, section 5.3.2) show the indefiniteness restriction, the fact that those of Buli show sensitivity to islands, and those of Mooré license parasitic gaps (Tellier 1989) suggests that the internal Head does move, though not as high as to cross over the strong determiners (which is what the “left-headed” variant of the same construction in (i) in Buli apparently does):

  1. [ná:-mʹʊ [àtì núrú-wá swà] lá] (Hiraiwa 2005,198)

cow-the COMP man-the own Dem

‘the cow that the man owns’

7 In the “left-headed” internally headed relative clauses of the Gur languages discussed by Hiraiwa (2005) there is no additional raising of a phrase of the Remnant.

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