French Relative Clauses as Secondary Predicates: A case study in Construction Theory
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Two properties characterize sign-based, constructional theories such as Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) and Construction Grammar (CG). Firstly, phrases as well as words are organized in richly articulated networks of categories. Secondly, semantic and pragmatic or information-structural properties are used for linguistic categorization of types. As is customary with general architectural principles, full justification is hard to come by. Rather than attempting a thorough motivation of this architectural design, we more modestly illustrate in this paper some of the advantages which this particular view of the organization of grammatical information represents in the description of a particular French construction. This construction involves the use of relative clauses as predicates rather than modifiers. We will show that a category-based organization of phrases and words allows for a straightforward account of this somewhat non-canonical grammatical construction; by exploiting the hierarchical organization of categories, this construction type is handled through expected variations in feature values and does not require the introduction of new, otherwise unmotivated structures, as has often been the case in previous analyses. Furthermore, we argue that the visibility of information-structure properties to syntactic categories is crucial to an adequate account of this construction.