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“Wh” and non-“wh” relative clauses - Page 5:

  • “wh” relative clauses (“The bag which he put there was stolen.”)

  • “that” relative clauses (“The bag that he put ______ there was stolen.”)

  • bare relative clauses (“The bag he put ______ there was stolen.”)

In each of these three examples, there’s an anaphoric relation with the antecedent “bag”. In the first, it’s from the relative pronoun “which”; in the second and third, it’s not from any word that’s said or written. But in all three, “he put R there” is understood.

Each of the three has a relativized element. In the first, it’s overt (“which”); in the second and third, it’s covert.

It seems that that doesn't have an anaphoric relation with the antecedent bag. Also, in page 6, in the example of that relative “a computer [that ______ cost too much]” you can see there's a gap indicating the presence of the relativized element, as opposed to the example of which relative “a computer [which cost too much]” in which there is no gap because which is the relativized element.

Why is which a relativized element but that is not? Is it because of the informality of that?

  • Incidentally, it's also possible for "that" and gap to be adjacent, as in "This is the part that ___ is worn out", where gap is in immediate subject position. – BillJ Oct 13 at 7:56
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“wh” relative clauses (“The bag which he put there was stolen.”)

“that” relative clauses (“The bag that he put ____ there was stolen.”)

bare relative clauses (“The bag he put ____ there was stolen.”)

"That" cannot be R because it's a subordinator, not a relative word (it's the same subordinator that introduces declarative content clauses).

As your examples show, in that and bare relatives the relativised element is covert and represented by the gap notation '____'.

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  • So when "that" is referred to as a relative pronoun in most of the grammar books out there, it is, however, just a subordinator acting like a relative pronoun? – Sam Oct 16 at 20:28
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    @Sam Not quite: relative "that" is indeed a subordinator, but it doesn't act as a relative pronoun because it doesn't have an antecedent in the main clause. Instead, it simply introduces the clause. In that and bare relatives it's the element represented by gap that is anaphoric. The grammar books are wrong! – BillJ Oct 17 at 7:03
  • Thank you. I wasn't so sure if "that" should be interpreted as a relative pronoun. At least now it's been confirmed. – Sam Oct 18 at 10:49

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