Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 59-88

First online:

Subject And Non-subject Relativization in Indonesian

  • Peter ColeAffiliated withDepartment of Linguistics, University of Delaware Email author 
  • , Gabriella HermonAffiliated withDepartment of Linguistics, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

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It has been claimed widely that in Indonesian the most frequent type of relative clause, that formed with the complementizer yang and with a gap in place of the relativized NP, is restricted to subject relativization. We challenge this claim and argue that complementizer/gap direct object relativization is also well formed. Furthermore, we argue against the proposal that the grammar of Indonesian contains a stipulation that complementizer/gap relativization is restricted to subjects and direct objects. Rather, the appearance of constraints which conform to the Accessibility Hierarchy of Keenan and Comrie [Linguist. Inquiry 8 (1977) 63] is due to the interaction of ECP-like restrictions on extraction with the structure of various clause types in Indonesian. Specifically, Indonesian exhibits a VP shell structure along the lines of Larson [Linguist. Inquiry 19 (1988) 335], which predicts the extraction facts. While the resulting distribution appears to conform to the Accessibility Hierarchy, there does not appear to be any motivation on the basis of the facts of Indonesian to attribute to the Accessibility Hierarchy an independent role in the grammar. Rather, the appearance of conformity to the Accessibility Hierarchy is epiphenomenal.