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Which-hunting in Medieval England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2020

Robert Truswell
University of Edinburgh
Nikolas Gisborne
University of Edinburgh


In many of the first English headed which-relatives, which has an NP complement. Using distributional tests grounded in contrasts revealed by research in formal semantics, we demonstrate that the presence of an NP complement forces a nonrestrictive interpretation of the relative, while ‘bare’ which-relatives may be restrictive or nonrestrictive. We situate this finding in relation to both the formal semantics of relative clauses, and the history of wh-relatives in English.



Dans les textes du moyen anglais, on constate que pour les phrases relatives avec antécédent qui contiennent le pronom relatif which (Qu-), ce pronom a souvent un complément SN. À l'aide de tests distributionnels basés sur les contrastes révélés par la sémantique formelle, nous démontrons que la présence de ce complément SN force une interprétation non déterminative de ces phrases relatives, alors que des phrases relatives avec which mais sans complément peuvent avoir des interprétations soit déterminatives, soit non déterminatives. Nous situons ce constat par rapport d'une part aux études sur la sémantique formelle des phrases relatives, et d'autre part à l'histoire des phrases relatives-Qu en anglais.

Copyright © Canadian Linguistic Association/Association canadienne de linguistique 2020

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Portions of this work were presented at the UCL workshop on movement (2015), a linguistics colloquium at the University of York (2016), and the first Formal Diachronic Semantics workshop (Konstanz, 2016). Thanks to those audiences, to the guest editors of this volume (particularly Igor Yanovich for copious comments on a prefinal version), and to two anonymous reviewers.


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