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The construction of meaning in relative clauses

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Abstract

Greek relative clauses introduced by <i>pu </i>have been described as structurally determined constructions in which interpretation is precisely guided by the syntax of the clause. In contrast to this oversimplified view, I show that <i>pu </i>relatives regularly underspecify the intended interpretation, incorporating instead a great deal of indeterminacy (in the sense of Langacker) in the way(s) the meaning of the head is integrated with the content of the relative clause. The factors which influence the construction of meaning include the lexical (in frame semantic terms) and constructional properties of the head and the relative clause predicate, but extend further to completely pragmatic and context-specific motivations; in the latter case, the head and the overt constituents in the relative clause function simply as clues for the final interpretation. The inherent indeterminacy of the relative construction can be captured in terms of conceptual integration theory, where the blended space may be shown to contain more structure than that in the input spaces and/or the alternate construals of a sentence may yield more than one blend. Finally I suggest that, while indeterminate, the interpretation of <i>pu </i>relatives is sensitive to constraints deriving from the prototypical meaning of restrictive relatives and from conceptual structure as such.

References

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