Reconstruction in relative clauses and the copy theory of traces*
In this paper, after discussing the status of the copy theory of traces in the current formulation of the minimalist program and the evidence for the “No-Tampering” Condition from which the copy theory of traces follows, I focus on a specific case study, namely reconstruction effects concerning the head of a relative clause. The common wisdom in the literature is that reconstruction of the relative clause head can be observed by using variable binding as a diagnostic, while the diagnostic based on Condition C gives opposite results. This split has led some researchers to propose that relative clauses are structurally ambiguous, because they would receive both a raising analysis (which explains variable binding reconstruction) and a non-raising analysis (which explains the absence of Condition C reconstruction). One of the goals of this paper is showing that it is not necessary to postulate that relative clauses are structurally ambiguous. In order to do that, I first show that the description in the literature is partly inaccurate. If some methodological problems raised by the use of transitive nouns are avoided, it can be shown that variable binding reconstruction occurs only when the relative clause modifies the subject of an equative sentence. This suggests that variable binding reconstruction of the relative clause head is not an ordinary case of reconstruction like the one found in canonicalwhchains but should be treated as a case of indirect binding, which is known to be sensitive to the identificational (as opposed to predicational) character of the sentence. I then show that, if this perspective is taken, the absence of Condition C effects can be explained without positing a structural ambiguity. The final result of the investigation is that, despite the initially puzzling evidence, the copy theory of traces can successfully explain the reconstruction pattern of the relative clause head.