Chapter Relativization on Subjects

by Bernard Comrie and Tania Kuteva

Please note: There is a common introduction to Chapters 122 and 123 on Relativization Strategies available.

1. Defining the values

Map 122A shows relativization on subjects:

Values of Map 122A. Relativization on Subjects
 ValueRepresentation
Relative pronoun 12
Non-reduction 24
Pronoun-retention 5
Gap 125
Total:166

The first strategy has come to be called the relative pronoun strategy: the position relativized is indicated inside the relative clause by means of a clause-initial pronominal element, and this pronominal element is case-marked (by case or by an adposition) to indicate the role of the head noun within the relative clause. The German example in (1) illustrates the relative pronoun strategy with subjects.

(1) German

Der Mann,

[der

mich

begrüßt

hat],

war

ein

Deutscher.

man.nom

rel.nom

me

greet.ptcp

has

be.3sg.pst

one

German

‘The man who greeted me was a German.’

Note that the mere presence of a pronoun that is restricted to relative clauses, and is thus in some intuitive sense a relative pronoun, is not sufficient to define an instance of the pronoun strategy  (Comrie 1998: 61-62). Such a relative pronoun can be case-marked, for instance, not to indicate its role in the relative clause, but rather to agree in case with the head noun in the main clause. Thus in the Modern Standard Arabic sentence in (2), the relative pronoun is nominative, like the head noun, whereas the position relativized in the relative clause is direct object (which would require the accusative case in Arabic); such instances do not satisfy our definition of the relative pronoun strategy.

(2) Modern Standard Arabic (Comrie 1998: 62)

`al-ɣulaam-aani

l-musiiqiyy-aani

llað-aani

the-boy-du.nom

the-musical-du.nom

rel-du.nom

‘the two boy musicians (whom Cyrano sent…)’

The second major relativizing strategy identifiable in our language sample is the non-reduction strategy: the head noun appears as a full-fledged noun phrase within the relative clause. Comrie (1989) and Comrie (1998) distinguish two subtypes of this strategy, which we have also been able to identify in our sample languages. The first subtype involves correlative clauses, where the head noun appears as a full-fledged noun phrase in the relative clause and is taken up again by a pronominal or a non-pronominal element in the main clause; this subtype is exemplified by the Pirahã (Mura; Brazil) sentence in (3).

(3) Pirahã (Everett 1986: 276)

boitóhoi

bog-ái-hiab-i-s-aoaxái

boitó

báosa

xig-i-sai

(hix)

boat

come-atelic-neg-epenth-?-inter

boat

barge

bring-epenth-nmlz

(comp/inter)

‘Might it be that the boat (which) tows barges is not coming?’

The second subtype of the non-reduction strategy, internally headed relative clauses, covers cases where the head is represented by a full noun phrase inside the relative clause, and has no explicit representation in the main clause, as exemplified by the Maricopa (Yuman; Arizona) sentence in (4).

(4) Maricopa (Gordon 1986: 255)

aany=lyvii=m

'iipaa

ny-kw-tshqam-sh

shmaa-m

yesterday

man

1-rel-slap.dist-subj

sleep-real

‘The man who beat me yesterday is asleep.’

In addition to the above two subtypes of the non-reduction strategy distinguished in Comrie (1989; 1998), in the present classification the non-reduction strategy covers one more subtype that we have termed elsewhere (see Kuteva and Comrie, forthcoming) the paratactic relative clause (cf. English That man just passed by us, he introduced me to the Chancellor of the University yesterday ). This subtype has the following characteristics: the “relative” clause contains the full-fledged head and is the same as an unmarked simple (declarative) clause; the relative and main clauses are only very loosely joined together. The Amele (Trans-New Guinea; Papua New Guinea) sentence in (5) illustrates this subtype of the non-reduction relativizing strategy.

(5) Amele (John Roberts, p.c.)

mel

mala

heje

on

((mel)

eu)

busali

nu-i-a

boy

chicken

illicit

take.3sg.subj-rem.pst

boy

that

run.away

go-3sg.subj-tod.pst

‘The boy that stole the chicken ran away.’

In (5), mel  ‘boy’ is the “relativized” noun in the “relative” clause. This nominal can be optionally referred to in the following “main” clause either by the demonstrative eu  ‘that’ or, if clarification is needed, by mel eu  ‘boy that’. What links the two clauses is the rising intonation at the end of the first clause. This indicates that it is not a final clause and is in either a subordinate or coordinate relationship with the following clause. The difference between correlatives and paratactic relatives is that whereas in correlatives, the relative clause usually contains some element (e.g. an interrogative) which would not be present in the corresponding simple declarative sentence, paratactic relatives contain no such element.

The third major relativizing strategy with subjects is the pronoun-retention strategy. In languages employing this strategy, the position relativized is explicitly indicated by means of a resumptive personal pronoun, as in the case of the Babungo (Bantu; Cameroon) example in (6).

(6) Babungo (Schaub 1985: 34)

mǝ̀

wǝ́

ntɨ́ǝ

ƒáŋ

ŋwǝ́

sɨ́

sàŋ

ghɔ̂

I

see.pfv

person

that

who

he

pst2

beat.pfv

you

‘I have seen the man who has beaten you.’

Note that we define the pronoun retention strategy as one where a pronoun or pronominal marker referring to the head of a relative clause is obligatory in the relative clause but is not obligatory in the corresponding simple declarative clause. Thus example (6) is considered pronoun-retention because it obligatorily includes the pronoun glossed ‘he’, although such a pronoun does not occur in the simple sentences in (7).

(7) Babungo (Schaub 1985: 23)

a.

Làmbí

!sáŋ

ŋwǝ́

 

Lambi

beat.impf

him

 

‘Lambi beat him.’

b.

Làmbí

sáŋ

!ŋwǝ́

 

Lambi

beat.pfv

him

 

‘Lambi has beaten him.’

Note also that, in contrast to Babungo, there exist languages where a pronominal subject marker is obligatorily attached to the verb both in the relative clause and in the corresponding simple declarative clause, as in Maybrat (West Papuan; Papua, Indonesia), for instance:

(8) Maybrat (Philomena Dol, p.c.)

a.

fai

m-ait

awiah

 

woman

3.unmarked-eat

taro

 

‘The woman eats taro.’

b.

fai

ro

m-ait

awiah

 

woman

rel

3.unmarked-eat

taro

 

‘the woman who eats taro’

In our classification, such languages are not treated as cases of the pronoun retention strategy.

Finally, the fourth major relativizing strategy with subjects identifiable across languages is the gap strategy. This strategy involves cases where there is no overt case-marked reference to the head noun within the relative clause:

(9) Turkish (Comrie 1998: 82)

[kitab-ı

al-an]

öğrenci

book-acc

buy-ptcp

student

‘the student who bought the book’

Note that for present purposes the gap strategy unites a number of possibilities that would need to be kept apart for other purposes. In some languages, the gapped clause construction may be only one manifestation of a single formal means for marking not only what translates English relative clauses but also a number of other clause types, e.g. the Fact-S construction (as in “The fact that he doesn’t know me...”), etc., which contains no gap. More precisely, this construction can be regarded as a general, noun-modifying clause construction, as the following examples from Karachay-Balkar (Turkic; northern Caucasus) demonstrate:

(10) Karachay-Balkar (Comrie 1998: 81)

a.

[kitab-ï

al-ɣan]

oquwču

 

book-acc

buy-ptcp

student

 

‘the student who bought the book’

b.

[oquwču

al-ɣan]

kitap

 

student

buy-ptcp

book

 

‘the book that the student bought’

c.

[prezident

kel-gän]

hapar

 

president

come-ptcp

news

 

‘the news that the president has come’

d.

[et

biš-gän]

iyis

 

meat

cook-ptcp

smell

 

‘the smell of meat cooking’

By contrast, there are languages with a gap strategy where different constructions must be used depending on the position relativized, on whether a Fact-S construction is involved, etc., cf. (11a) vs. (11b-c):

(11) Turkish (Comrie 1998: 82)

a.

[kitab-ı

al-an]

öğrenci

 

book-acc

buy-ptcp

student

 

‘the student who bought the book’

b.

[öğrenci-nin

al-dığ-ı]

kitap

 

student-gen

buy-nmlz-3sg

book

 

‘the book which the student bought’

c.

[cumhurbaşkanı-nın

gel-diğ-i]

haber-i

 

president-gen

come-nmlz-3sg

news-3sg

 

‘the news that the president has come’

The general noun-modifying construction may involve a participial marker (as in Karachay-Balkar), a general subordinator (as in Warndarang (Maran; Northern Territory, Australia)), a multifunctional complementizer (as in Chalcatongo Mixtec (Oto-Manguean; Mexico)), or even a finite clause with no overt subordinator (as in Japanese). In a number of cases, however, there is a gap strategy specific to relativization, as in Maale (Omotic; Ethiopia), exemplified in (12).

(12) Maale (Amha 2001: 161)

ʔííní

[[ziginó

mukk-é]

ʔatsi]

za-é-ne

3sg.m.nom

yesterday

come-pfv.rel

person.m.abs

see-pfv-aff.decl

’He saw the man who came yesterday.’

Here the relative clause precedes the head noun and it contains no pronominal element co-referential to the relativized noun. The relative clause in Maale can be regarded as a specifically relative construction because it differs from other subordinate clauses in having no affix indicating the dependent status of the clause. And it also differs from independent sentences: whereas independent sentences are characterized by clause-final illocutionary force morphemes which classify the utterance as an assertion, interrogation, manipulative, etc., as in (13), the (restrictive) relative clause ends in one of the aspect/polarity suffixes -é-, -á-, -uwá-, or -ibá-, as in (12), and cannot be marked by the illocutionary force morphemes so that it cannot form a complete utterance on its own.

(13) Maale (Amha 2001: 161)

ʔatsi

ziginó

mukk-é-ne

person.m.nom

yesterday

come-pfv-aff.decl

‘The man came yesterday.’

Editorial note: Please cf. also Chapter 123.

2. Geographical distribution

Map 122A shows the following areal-typological configurations with respect to relativizing on subjects. In Europe, the relative pronoun strategy predominates (see also Lehmann 1984: 109; Comrie 1998: 6; Haspelmath 2001: 1496-1497). Note that this strategy stands out as being typically European since it is not found in Indo-European languages spoken outside Europe, and is exceptional more generally outside Europe.

In East Asia and Southeast Asia, the gap strategy is the most frequent one (see also Comrie 1998: 78). The non-reduction relativizing strategy is most frequently employed in the languages of the Americas.

Map 123A reveals distinct areal-typological patterns, too. The gap strategy is the dominant relativizing strategy for obliques in Southeast Asia, the Pacific area, and Australia. The relative pronoun strategy is characteristic of relativizing on obliques in Europe, whereas pronoun retention is the most frequent relativizing strategy with obliques in the languages of Africa.

3. Theoretical issues

According to the Accessibility Hierarchy of Relativization (subject > direct object > indirect object > possessor) proposed in Keenan and Comrie (1977), it is easier to relativize on subjects than it is to relativize on any of the other positions, easier to relativize on direct objects than indirect objects, etc. One of the generalizations that has been made regarding the accessibility hierarchy is that the pronoun retention strategy is preferred at the lower end of the hierarchy. This finds substantial confirmation in the present study, in that several languages use pronoun retention for relativizing upon obliques but not for relativizing upon subjects. In fact, few languages use pronoun-retention to relativize upon subjects, though Babungo illustrates precisely this possibility, as in (6), repeated as (14):

(14) Babungo (Schaub 1985: 34)

mǝ̀

wǝ́

ntɪ̵́ǝ

ƒáŋ

ŋwǝ́

sɨ́

sàŋ

ghɔ̂

I

see.pfv

person

that

who

he

pst2

beat.pfv

you

‘I have seen the man who has beaten you.’

Note that to relativize upon direct objects, Babungo uses either a gap or pronoun-retention, with the gap being obligatory with a few verbs in the perfective aspect, as in (15); in this Babungo provides an exception to the accessibility hierarchy generalization on the distribution of pronoun retention.

(15) Babungo (Schaub 1985: 34)

a.

optional gap strategy

 

mǝ̀

wěembwā

ƒáŋ

tǐi

sɪ̵́

sǎŋ

(ŋwǝ̀)

 

I

see.pfv

child

who

father

his

pst2

beat.pfv

(him)

 

‘I have seen a child whom his father had beaten.’

b.

obligatory gap strategy

 

mǝ̀

ŋkáw

ŋkɪ̵́ǝ

ƒáŋ

Làmbí

kɔ̀

 

I

see.pfv

chair

that

which

Lambi

give.pfv

 

‘I have seen the chair which Lambi gave.’