Gaps, ghosts and gapless relatives in spoken English

Chris Collins, Andrew Radford

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper looks at the syntax of so-called gapless relative clauses in spoken English. §1 contrasts gap relatives (like that italicised in ‘something which I said’, in which there is a gap internally within the relative clause associated with the relativised constituent) with gapless relatives (like that italicised in ‘They were clowning around, which I didn't really care until I found out they had lost my file’, in which there is no apparent gap within the relative clause). In §2, we note that a number of recent analyses take which to function as a subordinating conjunction in gapless relatives, but we argue against this view and provide evidence that the wh-word in such clauses is indeed a relative pronoun. In §3, we argue that the relative pronoun in gapless relatives serves as the object of a ‘silent’ preposition. In §4, we present an analysis under which a preposition can be silent when it undergoes a type of deletion operation called Ghosting. §5 discusses gapless relatives which have a Topic-Comment interpretation, and argues for an extended Ghosting analysis under which a TP containing a predicate of saying associated with the ghosted preposition is also ghosted. Our overall conclusion is that supposedly ‘gapless’ relatives are more properly analysed as containing a gap created by relativization of the object of a ghosted preposition.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)191-235
    Number of pages45
    JournalStudia Linguistica
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 2015

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language
    • History and Philosophy of Science


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