Free relatives and related matters

Roumyana Ivanova Pancheva Izvorski, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is a study of the syntax and interpretation of free relatives. Different types of free relatives are examined and are shown to have distinct syntactic and semantic properties. Several grammatical environments are discussed in relation to the involvement of free relatives—comparative clauses, certain existential constructions, and free adjuncts. It is proposed that structurally, free relatives have a CP-external head only when it is overtly realized by a determiner as in, e.g., the lo que free relatives of Spanish. Corresponding to the DP external syntax, such free relatives have the interpretation of definite DPs. In the absence of an overt head, no phonologically covert head is posited in free relatives. These headless free relatives fall into two groups. One kind are bare CPs; these are shown to have a propositional interpretation. The free relatives of the other kind have the syntactic category of their wh-word and thus, the corresponding interpretation. They are derived in a move-and-project fashion, i.e., through a syntactic derivation that proceeds in a non-conventional way. Whereas it is usually assumed that after an element moves and merges with the target of movement, it is the target that projects further, here I propose that it is the moved element, the wh-phrase in the free relative, that projects. Thus it follows that this type of free relative would have the category and features of the wh-element. The various types of free relatives pattern differently in the grammatical environments studied in this dissertation. Free adjuncts are shown to only allow bare CP free relatives. This restriction correlates with the propositional interpretation required in such an environment. Comparatives permit free relatives with overt heads or free relatives with projecting wh-phrases, with different interpretive results. The existential construction is expected to exclude all types of free relatives since they have the semantics of strong DPs. Here, an apparent case of a free relative in the existential construction is given an alternative analysis in terms of an indirect question.

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Recommended Citation

Pancheva Izvorski, Roumyana Ivanova, "Free relatives and related matters" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965537.