A unified theory of 'standard' and 'transparent' free relatives

Alexander Grosu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


This paper puts forward a unified theory of 'standard' and 'transparent' free relatives, and thus departs from earlier analyses of the latter, which have consistently viewed them as radically different 'constructions.' It is argued, partly on the basis of strengthened and refined old arguments and partly on the basis of novel ones, that the two kinds of free relatives are unified by the following core of properties: (i) they are complex XPs, consisting of an overt CP and a null head (with internal structure), (ii) they are multi-categorial, and (iii) their semantic interpretation involves the application of a uniqueness operator to a set obtained by abstraction. The special effects associated with transparent free relatives result from the following combination of factors (which may be encountered separately, in which case they do not induce transparency effects): (a) the wh-element in [Spec, CP] binds the subject of a small clause, (b) the small clause is of the equative-specificational type, (c) abstraction at the CP level applies to an unrestricted property variable, and (d) the wh-element is syntactically and semantically underspecified. The cumulative effect of these factors is that the small-clause predicate is perceived as, and in certain ways also functions as, a syntactic and semantic 'nucleus' of the complex XP and thus exhibits head-like properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-331
Number of pages85
JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2003


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation of the Israel Academy of Sciences782/00-01, 800/01-02


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