6

Consider the sentence,

Together with corroborant documentation, the petitioner must submit his own account of the events that he claims (that) justify the exemption.

That can follow any verb that expresses a propositional attitude. (E.g. 'He believes/expects/knows/says/claims/asserts/ that.')

However, I suspect that something grammatical -something other than stylistic concerns about repetition- prohibits the use of that after claims in the sentence above.

Does a grammatical rule prohibit the use of, or require eliding, that in the way I've described?

Thank you

-Hal

  • I'm no grammarian, so this is just a guess, but is it not because your verb 'claims' is followed by another verb? – 568ml Apr 24 '14 at 14:30
  • Would you say 'Together with corroborant documentation, the petitioner must submit his own account of the events which he claims that justify the exemption.'? He claims that events A, B and C justify the exemption <==> The events that he claims justify the exemption are A, B and C. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 24 '14 at 14:48
  • I still think the main reason not to use that twice is because you only have to refer to the events once. But I messed up my explanation and terminology in my answer beyond salvage, so I have removed it :) – oerkelens Apr 24 '14 at 14:54
  • Probably because that's a relative clause and you can't fill the relativized gap with a word or phrase that could link back to the gap's antecedent--for if you did, then it wouldn't be a relative clause. This shows up better if you use "which" as the relative word: "his own account of the events which he claims (that/events) justify the exemption." – F.E. Apr 24 '14 at 21:13
4

The relevant clauses are ‘the petitioner must submit his own account of the events’ and ‘he claims (that) the events justify the exemption’. When they are joined, they become ‘the petitioner must submit his own account of the events that he claims justify the exemption’. ‘The events’ is not repeated, so no second ‘that’ is required. If you consider that to be a relative pronoun, then it is the object of ‘claims’ and represents ‘the events’. Some linguists consider that not to be a relative pronoun in constructions like this, but a subordinator. According to that analysis, that still introduces the relative clause, but the relativized element is omitted.

  • Could we also say:"Together with corroborant documentation, the petitioner must submit his own account of the events that he claims to justify the exemption"? – Vic Apr 24 '14 at 15:25
  • You could, but it would be more normal to omit the to before justify. – Colin Fine Apr 24 '14 at 15:58
  • Having the 'to' in there is readable, and (iinm) would be an infinitive clause. But I see a slight problem, namely in cases such as this I have always taken the verb in the subordinate clause to be in the subjunctive mood. I think using wish, want, etc - and claim - justifies this. We're talking present subjunctive, of course. Thus the 'to' should not be there. – Questor Apr 24 '14 at 17:43
  • @Questor, there is no subjunctive here. This can be seen clearly if the logical subject is singular: “the event that he claims justifies the exemption” is unambiguously indicative. Even if it were a subjunctive, though, that would not preclude the equal possibility of an infinitive construction. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 24 '14 at 23:11
2

I have not seen this referenced anywhere as such, but I can think of no way to construct counter-examples, either.

The answer is very simple, actually—it does not even have anything to do with repetition or relative pronouns at all:

A complement clause without a subject must not be overtly marked.

To explain more fully:

A complement clause is a subtype of noun clauses, themselves a type of subordinate clauses. Complement clauses begin with the subordinate marker ‘that’ and function as the object of a variety of verbs, mostly verbs that indicate feeling or reporting verbs.

The subordinate marker is nearly always optional in English:

I think that my husband is having an affair.
I think my husband is having an affair.

This is a lot like in relative clauses, where the relative marker (pronoun) that/who(m)/which is optional as long as it is not the subject of the clause:

The man who is walking on the street. [who = subject; not optional]
The man [who(m)] I see walking on the street. [who(m) = object; optional]

The rule of when the marker is optional is a bit different in the complement clauses, though: there the rule is that if the clause has no overt subject (meaning that the actual subject of the clause is located outside the clause, in the main clause that the complement clause is embedded in), then the marker is not optional, but actually disallowed. Compare the following sentences where I also show that the presence or absence of another that (the relative marker) is not relevant. The relative markers (interrogatives in the last section) are in bold, while the subordinate markers are in italics.

With relative marker

The new car that I hope (that) my cheating husband will buy me.
My cheating husband that/who(m) I hope †that will buy me a new car.

Without relative marker

The new car I hope (that) my cheating husband will buy me.
My cheating husband I hope †that will buy me a new car.

In other types of sentences

What car do you think (that) my cheating husband will buy me?
Who do you think †that will buy me that car if my cheating husband won’t?

In the first sentences here, the complement clause is (basically) my husband will buy, which has a subject and a verb. In the second sentences, the clause is will buy, which has no subject.

Since there is no subject, overtly marking the complement clause with the subordinate marker that is impossible.

Note that the clause does of course have a logical subject, but it is not located in the clause itself. It is, in fact, the relative marker that/who(m). This leads to problems if using who(m), because the poor pronoun ends up being the object in the relative clause (whom I hope), but the subject in the embedded complement clause (who will buy)—and it becomes pretty much impossible to decide whether to use who or whom. This is a case where English grammar simply collapses and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

  • Looks risky but good. 'That' has different incarnations; if I might switch into French at key points: The new car that I hope that my cheating husband will buy me. = The new car lequel I hope que my cheating husband will buy me. The second 'that', ='que', is the complementiser. So your 'A complement clause without a subject must not be overtly marked.' can be restated 'A complement clause without a subject does not have a complementiser.' – Edwin Ashworth Apr 24 '14 at 16:50
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth, yes, that is exactly what I meant by ‘overtly marked’: that a complementiser is present. I should mention that this blocking of a complementiser in a subjectless complement clause is found in all the Scandinavian languages, too. I think the same restriction applies in German, but my German is not good enough that I can ‘hear’ whether it sounds right or wrong with or without the complementiser. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 24 '14 at 23:08
  • 'I have not seen this referenced anywhere as such, but I can think of no way to construct counter-examples, either.' I wish all contributors were as modest. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 24 '14 at 23:20
  • @Edwin, I am one of those unfortunate people who neither owns nor has ever read CGEL and similar works, so since I couldn’t provide any real sources for what is essentially my own theory, I copped out with a disclaimer. It seems I’m not quite the first to think of this after all, though (would be nothing short of bizarre if I were). This article (p. 11–12) draws a very similar, though much more detailed and technical, conclusion. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 24 '14 at 23:31

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