§Subject-modifying relative clauses are typically adjacent to their antecedent (canonical
order) (1) but can also be extraposed (relative clause extraposition (RCE) order) (2)
1) Some swimmers who had no adult supervision appeared.
2) Some swimmers appeared who had no adult supervision.
§Acceptability and occurrence of RCE is constrained by factors including predicate
type and givenness of the predicate.
§Predicate type: RCE is highly acceptable with predicates of appearance (3) (Walker,
2013; Guéron 1980) and typically less acceptable with intransitive non-appearance
predicates (4) and transitive predicates (5)
3) Some archeologists emerged who had explored the tomb.
4) ?Some archeologists slipped who had explored the tomb.
5) ??Some archeologists introduced themselves who had explored the tomb
§Givenness: Non-appearance verbs may be ‘coerced’ into a presentational reading when
the predicate is discourse given (6), predicting that RCE will be more acceptable when
the predicate has been previously mentioned (Francis & Michaelis, 2014; Rochemont
and Culicover, 1990)
6) a. ?A man screamed who wasn’t wearing any clothes
b. Suddenly there was the sound of lions growling. Several women screamed.
Then a man screamed who was standing at the very edge of the crowd.
(Rochemont and Culicover, 1990, p. 65)
§Acceptability of RCE with transitive verbs and discourse given predicates has not
been formally tested.
Acceptability of relative clause extraposition in English: Effects of predicate type and givenness
Joshua D. Weirick • Elaine J. Francis
UK Cognitive Linguistics Conference 2020
UK Cognitive Linguistics Conference, July 27th –29th , 2020 firstname.lastname@example.org
ScreenHunter_20 Sep. 10 00.48
short lag or
Initial Stops second set
Research Questions and Hypotheses
§RCE sentences with appearance verbs were significantly more acceptable than those
with other verb types (Fig. 2&5), consistent with results from Walker’s (2013)
judgement experiment on RCE sentences in isolation.
§Acceptability of RCE did not improve in the given condition (Fig. 3&6), though
there was a significant interaction between givenness and verb type.
§In sum, no consistent effect of givenness was observed in the RCE order. Our
findings fail to support the proposal that RCE sentences with non-appearance verbs
become more acceptable when the predicate has been previously mentioned (at least,
not when other factors, such as prosodic cues, are absent).
Figure 3: Mean ratings, verb type
by givenness in the RCE order only.
There was no significant main
effect of givenness and no
interaction between givenness and
Lifeguards at the neighborhood pool are very busy during the summer. Kids will
run across the slippery pool deck, scrape their knees on the rough edges of the pool,
and appear at the pool alone. Just last week, a lifeguard had her hands full when
[some swimmers appeared who had no adult supervision].
Verb type: ‘appearance’ Word order: RCE
The company executives were sitting nervously in the board room when suddenly
the director of the legal department arrived.
Then a lawyer arrived who represented the company whistleblower.
Word order: RCE
Figure 2: Mean ratings, word order
by verb type. Significant word
order*verb type interaction
(F=7.8336, p=0004462). Transitive-
reflexive and intransitive non-
appearance verbs were significantly
less acceptable in RCE order
compared to canonical order, while
there was no difference in
acceptability between the canonical
and RCE orders for sentences with
-style acceptability judgement on a 7-point scale
Ex1 (n=48): English speakers
recruited from Purdue
Ex2 (n=60): English speakers recruited online via Prolific
: RCE, canonical (CAN)
appearance, intransitive non-appearance, transitive-
reflexive (+unergative in Ex2)
Givenness of the predicate:
Appearance Non-appearance Transitive-reflexive
Linear mixed model using lme4 (Bates et al., 2015) in R (R Core
Team, 2019). Independent variables and their interactions as main
effects with random intercepts for participants and items. (the data
from Ex1 were also analyzed using an ordinal logistic regression,
which produced the same significant main effects and interaction).
1. What are the effects of word order, discourse givenness, and predicate type on sentence
2. Are there interactions among word order, discourse status and predicate type in their
effects on overall sentence acceptability ratings?
1. Canonical sentences will be more acceptable than RCE sentences across conditions (Francis,
2. In the RCE order, appearance verbs (e.g. appear, arrive) will receive higher ratings than
intransitive non-appearance verbs (e.g. fall, remain) and (in Ex2) unergative verbs, which will
receive higher ratings than transitive-reflexive verbs (e.g. hurt themselves) (Walker, 2013).
3. In the RCE order, acceptability for intransitive non-appearance, transitive-reflexive, and (in
Ex2) unergative verbs will improve in the given condition (Rochemont & Culicover, 1990).
Figure 1: Ex1 sample item and factor manipulations
Figure 5: Mean ratings,
word order by verb type.
acceptable in RCE order
compared to CAN.
Figure 6: Mean ratings,
verb type by givenness in
the RCE order only. No
significant advantage for
given predicates in the
RCE order. In fact, there
was a significant verb
interaction such that
appearance verbs and
unergative verbs were
more acceptable in the
new condition. This can
be seen in the RCE order
in Fig. 6, contrary to
Figure 4: Ex2 sample item and factor manipulations
* denotes < .05
* denotes < .05