SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Werth, Paul Nicolas (1976) On the semantic representation of relative clauses in English. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (19MB)


Few recent studies of relativization attempt to deal with semantic distinctions between Restrictives (Rs) and Non-Restrictives (NRs), and none satisfactorily. But the distinctions are fundamental, and must be treated by rules having semantic and contextual orientation. The functions of context are examined at some length, and it is suggested that many semantic and syntactic operations usually treated separately are in fact contextually-determined - by the general semantic coherence of the discourse, and by the operation of focus within it. The deictic implications of context-related Rs of several types are distinguished from those of the context-independent function of generic. Generic Rs are taken to be the fundamental R type. Evidence is presented suggesting that Rs and NRs derive from different sources. NRs are subsequently shown not exclusively to derive from conjunction, but often to exhibit more complex semantic relationships between antecedent and relative clauses, whereas Rs and their antecedent clauses are semantically single units. This difference is explored using a generative-semantic model, and suggesting how the context ultimately specifies not only R as against NR, but also the various types of R. Interpretive semantic models, it is suggested, cannot account for these distinctions at all; neither can sentence-grammars. Conclusions - Rs subjoin relative to antecedent clause, whereas NRs conjoin them (though not only with logical 'A'); - The basic R is generic; other deictic types are regularly derived from generic contextually. Semantic theory must therefore account for context; - The relationship of full- or partial-synonymy between (all) lexical items and (some) generic Rs suggests complete or partial identity of underlying semantic structure. At present, only Generative-Semantics (modified for context- and role-specification) can handle this; - Considerable overlaps between relative clauses and focussed constructions appear to suggest that contextual focus may eventually determine all the distinctions involved.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:00

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item