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Between headed and headless relative clauses*

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Abstract

Most syntactic typologies of relative clauses recognize two distinct categories: &#8216;headed&#8217; and &#8216;headless&#8217; (or &#8216;free&#8217;) relatives, according to whether or not the relative clause is associated with a nominal element that refers to a category delimited by the relative (the &#8216;domain nominal&#8217;, e.g. Andrews 2007). To this, Citko (2004) adds a third, intermediate category of &#8216;light-headed&#8217; relatives. However, this paper considers evidence from Hup, a Nadahup (Mak&#250;) language of the northwest Amazon, to argue that such a strictly categorical approach &#8211; even one that makes room for three categories &#8211; is descriptively and typologically inadequate. In particular, for languages like Hup in which relative clauses are nominalizations (in an appositional relationship to the domain nominal), elements occurring as domain &#8216;nominals&#8217; may be shaped by processes of grammaticalization that give them a partly lexical, partly grammatical identity, and they may occupy different points along a lexical&#8211;grammatical continuum. In Hup, while relative clauses may be associated with a full noun phrase (i.e. headed) and with no domain nominal whatsoever (i.e. headless), they may also appear with a range of intermediate elements, including &#8216;bound&#8217; nouns, which differ from full noun phrases in their syntactic status; classifiers or &#8216;class terms&#8217;; and the enclitic =<i>d&#8217;&#477;h</i>, a semi-nominal element that also marks plural number. The Hup data suggest that the property of &#8216;headedness&#8217; in relative clauses may be best represented as a gradient phenomenon, and that this approach is arguably descriptively richer and typologically more accurate than the alternative. Keywords: Headless (free) relatives; nominal classifiers; nominalization; Hup

References

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