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acl:relcl: adnominal relative clause modifier

** UNDER REVISION **

A relative clause (RC) is a clause modifying some head (typically a noun) that is understood to fulfill some grammatical role in the RC. The head is said to be “extracted” from the RC.

Most RCs are adnominal, hence the relation acl:relcl. Adverbial RCs attach as advcl:relcl, as discussed below.

RCs are usually finite (people who live in glass houses), but may also be infinitival (I found a house in which to live, I found a house (for my mother) to live in). Gerund-participial and past-participial clauses (people living in glass houses, students given high marks) are never considered relative clauses.

In the Basic Dependencies representation, the main predicate of the RC attaches to the head as acl:relcl. This is shown in the example on the left.

In the Enhanced Dependencies layer, there is an additional dependency in the opposite direction to indicate the role from which the head was “extracted”. This is shown on the right.

1 I _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 2 saw _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 3 the _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 4 man _ _ _ _ 2 obj _ _ 5 you _ _ _ _ 6 nsubj _ _ 6 love _ _ _ _ 4 acl:relcl _ _ 7 . _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _
# visual-style 6 4 obj color:blue 1 I _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 2 saw _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 3 the _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 4 man _ _ _ _ 2 obj 6:obj _ 5 you _ _ _ _ 6 nsubj _ _ 6 love _ _ _ _ 4 acl:relcl _ _ 7 . _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _

The RC may begin with a relativizer (that, which, who, or another WH-word); in some contexts (e.g., object relativization) the relativizer is optional. See PronType=Rel. The relativizer can be understood as an anaphor whose antecedent is the head of the relative clause.

Basic UD (left) analyzes the relativizer, if present, as filling a role in the RC. Specifically:

In the Enhanced Dependencies layer (right), the relativizer instead attaches to its antecedent via the ref relation (as the antecedent is directly connected to a role in the RC).

# visual-style 7 5 obj color:orange 1 I _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 2 saw _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 3 the _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 4 book _ _ _ _ 2 obj _ _ 5 which which PRON WDT PronType=Rel 7 obj _ _ 6 you _ _ _ _ 7 nsubj _ _ 7 bought _ _ _ _ 4 acl:relcl _ _ 8 . _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _
# visual-style 4 5 ref color:blue # visual-style 7 4 obj color:blue 1 I _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 2 saw _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 3 the _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _ 4 book _ _ _ _ 2 obj 7:obj _ 5 which which PRON WDT PronType=Rel 4 ref _ _ 6 you _ _ _ _ 7 nsubj _ _ 7 bought _ _ _ _ 4 acl:relcl _ _ 8 . _ _ _ _ 0 _ _ _
# visual-style 5 3 advmod color:orange 1 the the DET DT Definite=Def|PronType=Art 2 det _ _ 2 episode episode NOUN NN Number=Sing 0 root _ _ 3 where where ADV WRB PronType=Rel 5 advmod _ _ 4 Monica Monica PROPN NNP Number=Sing 5 nsubj _ _ 5 sings sing VERB VBZ Mood=Ind|Number=Sing|Person=3|Tense=Pres|VerbForm=Fin 2 acl:relcl _ _
# visual-style 2 3 ref color:blue # visual-style 5 2 obl color:blue 1 the the DET DT Definite=Def|PronType=Art 2 det _ _ 2 episode episode NOUN NN Number=Sing 0 root 5:obl _ 3 where where ADV WRB PronType=Rel 2 ref _ _ 4 Monica Monica PROPN NNP Number=Sing 5 nsubj _ _ 5 sings sing VERB VBZ Mood=Ind|Number=Sing|Person=3|Tense=Pres|VerbForm=Fin 2 acl:relcl _ _
# visual-style 4 3 nmod:poss color:orange 1 the the DET DT Definite=Def|PronType=Art 2 det _ _ 2 woman woman NOUN NN Number=Sing 0 root _ _ 3 whose whose PRON WP$ Poss=Yes|PronType=Rel 4 nmod:poss _ _ 4 cat cat NOUN NN Number=Sing 5 nsubj _ _ 5 smells smell VERB VBZ Mood=Ind|Number=Sing|Person=3|Tense=Pres|VerbForm=Fin 2 acl:relcl _ _
# visual-style 2 3 ref color:blue # visual-style 4 2 nmod:poss color:blue 1 the the DET DT Definite=Def|PronType=Art 2 det _ _ 2 woman woman NOUN NN Number=Sing 0 root 4:nmod:poss _ 3 whose whose PRON WP$ Poss=Yes|PronType=Rel 2 ref _ _ 4 cat cat NOUN NN Number=Sing 5 nsubj _ _ 5 smells smell VERB VBZ Mood=Ind|Number=Sing|Person=3|Tense=Pres|VerbForm=Fin 2 acl:relcl _ _
# visual-style 5 3 xcomp color:orange # visual-style 6 3 mark color:orange # visual-style 7 3 cop color:orange 1 the the DET DT Definite=Def|PronType=Art 2 det _ _ 2 country country NOUN NN Number=Sing 0 root _ _ 3 that that PRON WP PronType=Rel 5 xcomp _ _ 4 we we PRON PRP Case=Nom|Number=Plur|Person=1|PronType=Pers 5 nsubj _ _ 5 want want VERB VBP Mood=Ind|Number=Plur|Person=1|Tense=Pres|VerbForm=Fin 2 acl:relcl _ _ 6 to to PART TO _ 3 mark _ _ 7 be be VERB VB VerbForm=Inf 3 cop _ _
# visual-style 2 3 ref color:blue # visual-style 2 6 mark color:blue # visual-style 2 7 cop color:blue # visual-style 5 2 xcomp color:blue 1 the the DET DT Definite=Def|PronType=Art 2 det _ _ 2 country country NOUN NN Number=Sing 0 root 5:xcomp _ 3 that that PRON WP PronType=Rel 2 ref _ _ 4 we we PRON PRP Case=Nom|Number=Plur|Person=1|PronType=Pers 5 nsubj _ _ 5 want want VERB VBP Mood=Ind|Number=Plur|Person=1|Tense=Pres|VerbForm=Fin 2 acl:relcl _ _ 6 to to PART TO _ 2 mark _ _ 7 be be VERB VB VerbForm=Inf 2 cop _ _

A relative clause with no relativizer, like (1), is called a reduced relative clause. One with a relativizer, like (3), is called a nonreduced relative clause.

Basic UD is shown for the rest of the examples below.

Notable Properties

Relativization can create unbounded dependency—an element can be extracted from several levels of embedding:

I saw the book which you pretended to think was boring
acl:relcl(book, pretended)
nsubj(boring, which)
xcomp(pretended, think)
ccomp(think, boring)

Semantically, relative clauses may be specifying/restrictive (helping to narrow a set of referents), or ascriptive/nonrestrictive (adding detail about a referent that has already been identified):

The specifying/ascriptive distinction does not affect the UD analysis.

Adverbial Relative Clauses

On occasion, a relative clause attaches not as a noun modifier but as a clause modifier, and therefore the appropriate relation is advcl:relcl. One such case is clausal anaphora, where the antecedent is a clause:

I tried to explain myself – which was a bad idea
advcl:relcl(tried, idea)
nsubj(idea, which)

Another such case occurs in it-clefts: see below.

Predicate Ellipsis in the Relative Clause

A pronominal relativizer may stand for a predicate in a relative clause:

If we lose ( which/PRON we probably will ) , I'm blaming you.
advcl(blaming, lose)
advcl:relcl(lose, which)
nsubj(which, we-6)
advmod(which, probably)
aux(which, will)

TODO: decide about advcl:relcl

Preposition Stranding

A preposition may be left “stranded” in the relative clause (its object corresponding to the head of the RC):

The Basic UD analysis depends on whether it is a reduced or nonreduced RC. In a nonreduced RC, the relativizer is available to fill a role in the RC, and thus gets marked with the preposition (even if this contributes to the nonprojectivity of the tree):

the house that you said you wanted to live in
acl:relcl(house, said)
ccomp(said, wanted)
xcomp(wanted, live)
obl(live, that)
case(that, in)

In a reduced RC, however, there is no nominal to fill the role in the RC, so the preposition gets promoted to the head of the phrase (similar to the treatment of Ellipsis):

the house you said you wanted to live in
acl:relcl(house, said)
ccomp(said, wanted)
xcomp(wanted, live)
obl(live, in)

Prepositional Relatives

As an alternative to stranding, the preposition may occur before the relativizer (for some relativizers, particularly which, whom, and whose):

the house in which you live
acl:relcl(house, live)
obl(live, which)
case(which, in)
the crown from where the jewels were stolen
acl:relcl(crown, stolen)
obl(stolen, where)
case(where, from)
the king from whom the jewels were stolen
acl:relcl(king, stolen)
obl(stolen, whom)
case(whom, from)
the king from whose crown we stole the jewels
acl:relcl(king, stole)
obl(stole, crown)
case(crown, from)
nmod:poss(crown, whose)
the king bequeathed a crown , the jewels of which were stolen
acl:relcl(crown, stolen)
nmod(jewels, which)
case(which, of)
nsubj:pass(stolen, jewels)

Infinitival Relatives

Relative clauses may be infinitival, in which case they do not generally have a relativizer.

I found a bagel to eat
acl:relcl(bagel, eat)
I have a suggestion to make
acl:relcl(suggestion, make)
I found someone to work on Saturdays
acl:relcl(someone, work)
I found a house (for my mother) to live in
acl:relcl(house, live)
obl(live, in)

Infinitival prepositional relatives with a relativizer are possible as an alternative to stranding:

I found a house in which to live
acl:relcl(house, live)
obl(live, which)
case(which, in)

Note that an adnominal infinitival clause is only a relative clause if the head noun is understood to double as a dependent of the subordinate clause. In the above examples, the bagel is the thing eaten (which corresponds to an obj in enhanced dependencies); someone is the person assigned to work (the enhanced nsubj); and so on.

By contrast, the following are plain acl because suggestion and ability are not understood as playing any role in the infinitival clause:

your suggestion to eat early
acl(suggestion, eat)
your ability to navigate in the dark
acl(ability, navigate)

Some infinitivals are ambiguous between two plausible readings. A proposal to speed up the meeting can be construed as a proposal of speeding up the meeting, i.e. speeding up is the content of the proposal (acl); or the proposal can be understood to consist of some method of saving time, in which case the proposal is construed as speeding up the meeting—a subject relative interpretation (acl:relcl).

With nouns like proposal, the of-paraphrase test can be used as a diagnostic for the non-relative interpretation. Another diagnostic is substituting something, somewhere, some way(?), or similar, which favors the relative clause interpretation:2

TODO: Currently acl has “a simple way to get my discount”. Is this an adjunct relative or a complement of “way”? It can be paraphrased as “way of getting my discount”. Similarly: “reason to leave”/”reason for leaving”.

something to speed up the meeting
acl:relcl(something, speed)

RCs Versus Non-relative Modifier Clauses

When, where, why, and how frequently introduce adverbial clauses (advcl). They can also introduce non-relative adnominal modifier clauses (acl) similarly providing time/place/manner information:

When you leave , be sure to let me know .
advmod(leave, When)
advcl(sure, leave)
The headlines when Nixon resigned were legendary .
advmod(resigned, when)
acl(headlines, resigned)

However, it should be considered a relative construction if the WH-adverb can be paraphrased by in which or similar, or if the head noun reifies the kind of relation (the time when, the place where, the reason why).

the time when the pizza exploded
acl:relcl(time, exploded)
advmod(exploded, when)

Some phrases are ambiguous. The ceremony where/when we became citizens can be interpreted as an RC if the bestowal of citizenship happened during the ceremony (in which interpretation3, thus acl:relcl). But the ceremony when we became citizens could be used to refer to a particular ceremony held around the time of becoming a citizen, as opposed to some other ceremony held at some other time; the modifier can be fronted as an advmod within the higher clause: When we became citizens, the ceremony…. This is the acl interpretation.

Illustrating the contrast with where:

☞ TODO: it may be more complicated than this. look at CGEL pp. 1078-1079

Free Relatives

NOTE: partially adapted from https://universaldependencies.org/en/specific-syntax.html#free-relatives

Free relatives are noun phrases containing a relative clause modifying a WH-phrase. There is no separate relativizer in the RC; it is “fused” with the head (thus these constructions are also known as fused relatives).

I 'll have whatever she 's having .
obj(have, whatever)
acl:relcl(whatever, having)
You can go where you want and eat what you want .
advmod(go, where)
acl:relcl(where, want-6)
obj(eat, what)
acl:relcl(what, want-11)
What money we have left will go to charity
det(money, What)
acl:relcl(money, have)
nsubj(go, money)
I don't like how it looks (CGEL p. 1077)
obj(like, how)
acl:relcl(how, looks)

TODO: where and how are ADVs, so is advcl:relcl more appropriate?

Free Relatives Versus Interrogative/Exclamative Complement Clauses

Free relatives are subtly different from interrogative clauses, where the WH-word making it interrogative is inside the clause. Verbs such as wonder, know, and tell license interrogative complement clauses (including ones beginning with whether). According to CGEL (Huddleston and Pullum 2002, pp. 1070–1079), in contrast to interrogative clauses, free relatives

The following contain interrogative complement clauses, not free relatives, and thus use ccomp:

I need to know who you are planning to leave with .
obl(leave, who)
case(who, with)
ccomp(know, leave)
I don't know where he lives , who he is , how old he is , how much money he has , what car he drives , to whom he is married , whether he has kids , or why he is here .
ccomp(know, lives)
advmod(lives, where)
conj(lives, who)
nsubj(who, he-9)
cop(who, is-10)
conj(lives, old)
advmod(old, how-12)
cop(old, is-15)
conj(lives, has-21)
advmod(much, how-17)
amod(money, much)
obj(has, money)
conj(lives, drives)
nsubj(drives, car)
det(car, what)
conj(lives, married)
obl(married, whom)
case(whom, to)
conj(lives, has-36)
mark(has-36, whether)
conj(lives, here)
advmod(here, why)

Interrogative WH-clauses can also function as clause adjuncts:

Whether you like it or not , it works .
mark(like, Whether)
conj(like, not)
advcl(works, like)
Whatever it is , I 'm against it !
advcl(against, Whatever)
nsubj(Whatever, it)
cop(Whatever, is)
Whatever your reasons , I disagree .
advcl(disagree, Whatever)
nsubj(Whatever, reasons)

See No matter and similar below.

Exclamative clauses beginning with how or what may also function as complements:

☞ TODO: With the exclamative clause analysis these results with BE as the RC predicate should be revisited.

☞ TODO: plain acl for a WH-clause: is this limited to interrogative and exclamative complements of nouns, and non-RC adjuncts (“press conferences when the US forces were already inside Baghdad”)? http://match.grew.fr/?corpus=UD_English-EWT@dev&custom=61c1f3622bda6

Cyclic cases

In some cases, promotion is required to avoid a cycle. For example, in the sentence I want to sample whatever dish this is, whatever dish this is is a free relative with a copular embedded clause. The word dish cannot simultaneously be treated as the copular predicate and the head of the free relative (because it cannot be an acl:relcl dependent on itself), so the auxiliary is promoted to the head of the embedded clause and assigned the acl:relcl relation.

I want to sample whatever dish this is .
obj(sample, dish)
det(dish, whatever)
acl:relcl(dish, is)
nsubj(is, this)

Clefts

A free relative can be used within a copular construction to background some material relative to a foregrounded element. John is foregrounded in the following two variants of the pseudocleft construction:

-ROOT- John is who we want to help .
root(-ROOT-, who)
nsubj(who, John)
acl:relcl(who, want)
cop(who, is)
-ROOT- Who we want to help is John .
root(-ROOT-, John)
nsubj(John, Who)
acl:relcl(Who, want)
cop(John, is)

The following show the pseudocleft construction being used to foreground a clause:

-ROOT- What John did was to play tennis .
mark(play, to)
cop(play, was)
nsubj:outer(play, What)
acl:relcl(What, did)
-ROOT- What the committee asked is whether the plan worked .
nsubj:outer(worked, What)
acl:relcl(What, asked)
cop(worked, is)
mark(worked, whether)
nsubj(worked, plan)
root(-ROOT-, worked)

☞ TODO: clefts vs. extraposition.

The it-cleft construction serves a similar purpose—foregrounding one element (with expletive it plus copula). The remainder of the sentence is a standard (not free) relative clause that elaborates on the copular predication. CGEL (p. 416) describes it as a relative clause functioning as a dependent of the main clause (versus the canonical function of a relative clause as dependent within a nominal phrase). In UD terms, the relative clause is adverbial; we therefore use advcl:relcl:

-ROOT- It 's John who we want to help .
expl(John, It)
cop(John, 's)
root(-ROOT-, John)
advcl:relcl(John, want)
xcomp(want, help)
obj(help, who)

(Previous versions of the guidelines treated who we want to help in the it-cleft as a free relative. But note that the above can be paraphrased as It’s John that we want to help or even It’s John we want to help, whereas free relatives require a WH-word to serve as the head.)

No matter and similar

The phrase no matter is analyzed as taking a obj complement in, e.g., no matter the cost. When it takes free relative object, that object is also analyzed according to the rules above.

No matter what progress we make as individuals, we will never achieve real health until ...
det(matter, No)
obl:npmod(achieve, matter)
obj(matter, progress)
det(progress, what)
acl:relcl(progress, make)

☞ TODO: or should it be advmod(matter, no), as in EWT?

☞ TODO: A particular non-relative construction in which WH-ever forms occur (these are interrogative clauses functioning as adjuncts): Whatever the reasons behind the duel (were), he was convinced of his impending death (cf. I’m doing this whether you like it or not.; see CGEL pp. 985-986)

Additional Examples

  1. CGEL considers that at the beginning of a relative clause to be a subordinator. UD adopts the traditional analysis of that as a relative pronoun roughly interchangeable with which etc. 

  2. However, this test fails for a suggestion to make: *something to make is not a valid substitution because make a suggestion is a light verb construction. 

  3. Or, formally, wherein


acl:relcl in other languages: [bej] [cop] [cs] [de] [el] [en] [fi] [fr] [ga] [hy] [id] [it] [no] [pa] [pcm] [pt] [ru] [sv] [swl] [u] [urj]