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Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage$
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Brian MacWhinney, Andrej Malchukov, and Edith Moravcsik

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198709848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709848.001.0001

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Why move? How weight and discourse factors combine to predict relative clause extraposition in English

Why move? How weight and discourse factors combine to predict relative clause extraposition in English

Chapter:
(p.70) 5 Why move? How weight and discourse factors combine to predict relative clause extraposition in English
Source:
Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage
Author(s):

Elaine J. Francis

Laura A. Michaelis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709848.003.0005

In relative clause extraposition (RCE) in English, a subject-modifying relative clause appears after the verb phrase, as in Some research was conducted that supports the existing theory. Previous studies have revealed that both grammatical weight and discourse factors induce speakers to use RCE. However, the current study is the first to examine the interaction of the two. A quantitative analysis of RCE and comparable non-RCE tokens in the International Corpus of English–Great Britain (ICE-GB) showed a strong effect of weight: there is a strong preference for RCE when the relative clause is at least five times longer than the verb phrase, and a strong preference for canonical (non-RCE) order when the relative clause is the same length or shorter than the verb phrase. However, for those tokens with length ratios falling between these limits, choice of structure depends primarily on discourse factors.

Keywords:   Construction Grammar, definiteness, domain minimization, focus, grammatical weight, length ratio, logistic regression, presentational construction, processing cost, relative clause

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