Strange relatives of the third kind

Alexander Grosu*, Fred Landman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we argue that there are more kinds of relative clause constructions between the linguistic heaven and earth than are dreamed of in the classical lore, which distinguishes just restrictive relative clauses and appositives. We start with degree relatives. Degree, or amount, relatives show restrictions in the relativizers they allow, in the determiners that can combine with them, and in their stacking possibilities. To account for these facts, we propose an analysis with two central, and novel, features: First, we argue that the standard notion of degree (a number on a measuring scale) needs to be replaced by a notion of structured degree, which keeps track of the object measured. Second, we argue that at the CP-level of degree relatives an operation of (degree) maximalization takes place. We show that the observed facts concerning degree relatives follow from these assumptions. We then broaden the discussion to other relative clause constructions. We propose that the operation of maximalization takes place in relative clauses when the head noun is semantically interpreted CP-internally, while syntactically the CP is part of a DP that also contains CP-external material. Based on this, we argue that degree relatives form part of a linguistically coherent class of relative clause constructions - we call them maximalizing relatives - which all show restrictions similar to those observed for degree relatives, and which differ semantically (and often also syntactically) both from restrictive relative clauses and from appositives. We discuss free relatives, internally-headed relatives, and correlatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-170
Number of pages46
JournalNatural Language Semantics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


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