Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 291–332

Relatives with a Leftward Island in Early Modern English



I describe a type of relative clause found in 16th–19th century English. This construction, the Relative with a Leftward Island or RLI, is characterised by a cluster of unusual properties. The relative pronoun is a definite, anaphoric pronoun, apparently semantically identical to that found in regular English appositive relatives, but the syntactic structure containing that pronoun is quite distinct from that of regular relative clauses. RLIs are biclausal structures, syntactically independent of the antecedent of the relative pronoun, with the first clause left-adjoined to the second. The relative pronoun occurs at the left edge of the subordinate, left-adjoined clause. I provide a synchronic analysis of this construction, and a sketch of the diachrony of relative clauses around this time, a period in which many constructions emerged, spread to some extent, and then disappeared within a century or so, without ever becoming fully widespread. The analysis offered here touches on many areas of syntactic theory, including island pied-piping, null subjects in non-pro-drop languages, resumption, the distribution of adjoined positions, and properties of movement and binding.


Early Modern English Relative clauses A′-binding E-type pronouns Locality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Linguistics and English Language, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language SciencesThe University of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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