Discourse Constraints on Extraposition from Definite NP Subjects in English

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Ohio State University. Department of Linguistics

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This paper examines English restrictive relative clauses that are extraposed from definite NP subjects, and their relationship to the discourse context in which they may be uttered. In contrast to previous work on this topic (Huck & Na, 1990, 1992), I demonstrate that extraposed relative clauses need not contain information that is given with respect to discourse context. Rather, extraposed clauses may contain either discourse-given information or discourse-new information. What is critical for extraposition of relative clauses from definite NP subjects is how informative the relative clauses are with respect to the Question Under Discussion as defined by Roberts (1996). In that sense, these extraposed relatives must provide new information with respect to a localized portion of the discourse content, and not with respect to the discourse as a whole. Thus, the acceptability of this particular structure depends not on a syntactic configuration but on local information structure in a discourse.




Working Papers in Linguistics, no. 58 (2008), 110-137.