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(1) It's a plan [that is being touted as the most modest proposal considered yet in Congress].

Here, the that-clause is a relative clause that modifies the antecedent 'plan', so I believe it's not a complement but an adjunct. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

Now, I'm not sure whether the following that-clauses are complements or adjuncts:

(2) It's unfortunate [that we meet under these circumstances].

(3) I have it on good authority [that you are in charge here].

(4) It's for that reason [that she is currently number one].

In (2) and (3), the that-clauses are extraposed, whereas in (4) it's the cleft clause.

  • If you could provide a test for identifying complements versus adjuncts, we could do more than give an opinion. And also a test for why it's important to know which one these constructions are. – John Lawler Jan 5 at 0:32
  • @JohnLawler As far as I know, distinguishing one from the other is not subject to change in different types of grammars. So I don't know why I should come up with a test myself. Also, I believe the distinguishing is vital to English grammar, so I guess that's why it's important. – JK2 Jan 5 at 0:42
  • I don't think it's vital to English grammar. Nothing hinges on it, and if a test can't distinguish it, it's not important enough to care about. – John Lawler Jan 5 at 0:56
  • Integrated (defining) relative clauses are normally modifiers, so the relative clause in (1) is modifying “plan”. Complement and adjunct are quite different functions. Adjuncts are modifiers in clause structure, but relatives are modifiers in NP structure. In (2-3) the that clauses are complements. And the bracketed clause in the cleft (4) is a relative clause. Btw, I would avoid calling relatives that clauses since the term is widely used for declarative content clauses, like those in (2-3). – BillJ Jan 5 at 8:57
  • @BillJ Do you mean the cleft clause in (4) is not a complement? – JK2 Jan 5 at 9:12
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(2) It's unfortunate [that we meet under these circumstances].

(3) I have it on good authority [that you are in charge here].

(4) It's for that reason [that she is currently number one].

In [2] the bracketed content clause is an extraposed subject. The dummy pronoun "it" serves as subject, and the that-clause as extraposed subject. Compare the basic, non-extraposed, version [That we meet under these circumstances] is unfortunate, where the bracketed content clause is subject.

[3] is also an extraposed construction, but this time it's not the subject that is extraposed, but an internal complement. Here the dummy "it" appears as object and the subordinate clause as extraposed object. The basic, non-extraposed version is inadmissible by virtue of having the subordinate clause located between the verb and another complement: we can't say * I have that you are in charge here on good authority.

[4] is trickier than the others. The bracketed element is a relative clause in an it-cleft construction. But unlike typical relative clauses, it isn't a dependent of "reason", i.e. it doesn't modify it. The words reason that she is currently number one do not form a syntactic constituent. It's for this reason that the relative clause is analysed as a postnucleus, not as a modifier.

  • Thanks for putting this in an answer :) But what exactly is a postnucleus? Is it a function? How is it defined? Does it only occur in cleft-sentences? Is it still seen as part of the NP, even though it's neither a modifier nor a complement of the head (in this case reason)? In that case, what is the support for that analysis? So many questions :) Would it be possible to explain this in a little more detail? – Hannah Jan 19 at 14:07

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