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The syntax of relative clauses is an area of investigation that raises a wide range of theoretical and empirical issues. These fall into three broad categories:

  1. i. What is the grammatical distribution of relative clauses? In other words, where can they occur structurally and how does their structural position interact with other linguistic mechanisms to determine the pronunciation and interpretation of the relative clause as a whole?

  2. ii. What is the range of possible structures for relative clauses? Are they always full CPs or, like other subordinate clauses, can they be smaller syntactic units? If so, which ones?

  3. iii. What types of syntactic dependencies are involved in relative clauses? For example, do they involve operator-variable binding, or syntactic movement?

The articles in this issue address all three of these questions, using evidence from a variety of languages, including three Salish languages (Nɬeʔkepmcxín, Moses-Columbian (Nxaʔamxcín), and Okanagan (Nʔsyilxcen)), two Algonquian languages (Blackfoot and Ojibwe), a Jê language of Brazil (Mẽbengokre), Austro-Bavarian German, Korean, and Late Archaic Chinese. Most of the articles report on small-scale studies of native-speaker intuitions; however, one article (by Edith Aldridge) is a historical study, and another (by Chung-hye Han) is a experimental study of grammaticality judgements. The collection sheds light on a rich variety of theoretical and empirical lines of inquiry. All eight articles address core issues of syntactic relations and their morphological realizations; some also extensively address interface issues, such as the effects of focus on linearization (Karsten A. Koch), or the semantic and intonational properties of different types of relative clauses (Martina Wiltschko). In short, this issue illustrates the diversity of current syntactic research in microcosm.

The first two articles, by Wiltschko and Koch, concern question (i): What is the grammatical distribution of relative clauses? Wiltschko argues for a three-way distinction among relative clauses in Austro-Bavarian German (ABG). In addition [End Page 151-] to restrictive and appositive relative clauses, like those illustrated in (1), Wiltschko argues that ABG has a third type, a descriptive relative clause.

  1. 1.

    1. a. Restrictive: the mailman who delivered in our neighbourhood

    2. b. Appositive: the mailman, who is really good-looking

Like their counterparts in Chinese (Del Gobbo 2005), descriptive relative clauses in ABG are semantically non-restrictive and morphosyntactically distinct from restrictive relative clauses; nevertheless, they share certain syntactic properties with restrictive relatives that distinguish them from appositive relatives. In ABG, these include the possibility of containing a pronominal variable bound from outside the relative clause and the impossibility of containing a speaker-oriented adverbial (comparable to English frankly). Based on these observations, Wiltschko argues that descriptive relatives attach to the lowest phrasal projection (NP), restrictive relatives attach to a higher projection (nP), and appositive relatives attach to the highest projection (DP). Wiltschko also provides a semantic account of the observation that appositive and descriptive relative clauses can modify nouns associated with a reduced determiner, while restrictive relatives can only modify nouns with a full determiner.

Koch's article on Nɬeʔkepmcxín (Thompson River Salish) examines the syntactic position and linearization of relative clauses. He argues that focus is responsible for an uncommonly observed pattern of head-final relative clauses in this language. Nɬeʔkepmcxín has been previously shown to have a discourse structure in which focused information precedes background information at the clausal level (Koch 2008), like other members of its language family. Capitalizing on key findings in the existing literature on the role of focus for relative clauses, Koch provides contextual tests in support of his analysis of novel data from Nɬeʔkepmcxín. He argues that relative clauses in this language move to the specifier of a Focus Phrase within DP, showing that this analysis also extends straightforwardly to headless relatives. Koch also discusses operations within relative clauses, showing that extraposition in Nɬeʔkepmcxín relative clauses provides a novel argument for matching, not raising, of the head NP as a strategy for relative clause formation in Salish languages (see also Davis 2010). The article makes an important contribution to the study of interfaces in grammar and offers a basis for future...