Vol. 8:1 (2010) ► pp.1–18
Indeterminacy in grammar and acquisition
An interdisciplinary approach to relative clauses
The formalist definition of relative clauses as a clearly distinct construction with two syntactically linked clauses has been recently questioned by cross-linguistic evidence. It is here further undermined by a discussion of constructions in Modern Greek, which although deviating from the structural definition conform nonetheless to a semantic-pragmatic one. Above all, acquisition data is presented as independent support for a unified approach to relatives, which can be based on conceptual integration. Syntactically underspecified relatives are shown to appear as early as syntactically-driven ones, with those based on more transparent semantic linking of clauses preceding those based on pragmatic linking. This suggests early handling of the metonymic nature of grammar but also a growing cognitive ability for more indeterminate grammatical relationships.