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Doubling unconditionals and relative sluicing


Doubling unconditionals are exemplified by the Spanish example Venga quien venga, estaré contento ‘Whoever comes, I’ll be happy’ (lit. ‘Comes who comes, I’ll be happy’). This curious and little studied construction is attested in various forms in a number of Romance and Slavic languages. In this paper, I provide a basic description of these constructions, focusing especially on Spanish, Czech, and Slovenian, and argue that they can be brought in line with analyses of run-of-the-mill unconditionals (of the English type) if one recognizes (1) that the wh-structure within the unconditional antecedent (quien venga ‘who comes’) is a free relative and (2) that the free relative is focused. The focused free relative introduces alternatives and thus gives rise to the denotation proposed by Rawlins (Nat Lang Semant 40(2):111–178, 2013) for English unconditionals. In the last part of the paper, I hypothesize that at least some non-doubling unconditionals could in fact have a doubling underlying structure, which is disguised by relative sluicing—clausal ellipsis with a relative pronoun remnant.

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The incentive for this research was provided by the invitation of Anikó Lipták and Lisa Cheng to take part in a workshop in memory of Luis Vicente, which took place in July 2018 in Leiden. An earlier version of this paper appeared as Šimík (2019). I would like to express my gratitude to the following people, who have provided me with data and/or valuable content-related feedback: Matt Barros, Anikó Lipták, Josep Quer, Adrian Stegovec, and Anna Szabolcsi. Last but not least, I am grateful to two anonymous reviewers, whose comments led to notable improvements, and to Christine Bartels for her careful copyediting and language correction. All remaining errors are my own. The research was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) via the project ‘Definiteness in articleless Slavic languages’ granted to the author.

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Correspondence to Radek Šimík.

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In memory of Luis Vicente H†2018.

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Šimík, R. Doubling unconditionals and relative sluicing. Nat Lang Semantics (2019).

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  • Unconditionals
  • Free relatives
  • Focus
  • Relative sluicing
  • Imperative
  • Subjunctive