Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 385–417

On Chinese appositive relative clauses

Open Access


There is currently no consensus in the literature with the respect to the semantic status of relative clauses in Mandarin Chinese. Some authors (Zhang 2001; Del Gobbo 2003, 2004, 2005) claim that relative clauses in Mandarin Chinese can only be interpreted as restrictives; others (see Lin 2003) instead maintain that relative clauses in this language can be both restrictive and appositive. In this paper, I claim that Chinese relative clauses modifying proper names and pronouns can indeed be appositive, but they are still crucially different from appositive relative clauses in English. Following Cinque’s (2006a, 2008a) distinction between “integrated appositive relative clauses” and “non-integrated” ones, I claim that Chinese appositive relatives belong to the class of the “integrated” ones. I furthermore propose that the typological difference between the “integrated” appositives and the “non-integrated” ones is due to the absence versus presence of the relative pronoun. Adopting Cinque’s (2006a, 2008a) theory of relativization, I propose a structure for Chinese relative clauses whereby c-command of the internal head of the relative is disallowed. This explains why the internal head of the Chinese relative clause can never be generated as a relative pronoun and, more generally, why overt relative pronouns are unavailable in prenominal relative clauses cross-linguistically. Last, the theory here outlined makes the strong empirical prediction that no prenominal relative clause can be appositive in the canonical sense.


Restrictive relative clauses Appositive relative clauses Prenominal relative clauses Mandarin Chinese 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics, School of Social SciencesUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA

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