Circassian relative clause constructions
This paper surveys relative clause constructions in West Circassian (Adyghe) and Kabardian.
Andi, Botlikh and Avar mostly use native ‘time’ nouns to form temporal subordinate clauses. In Andi and Botlikh the cognate nouns rihi and rihu // riw are morphologising towards temporal converb markers, however in Avar, there is no such development. meχ and other nouns in temporal expressions in Avar more frequently appear in ergative, but only zaman appears more frequently in locative. In temporal subordinate clauses with a participle this difference disappears. Possibly zaman + locative is contact-induced through (Kipchak). Turkic languages spoken in the area though this requires further investigation.
In polysynthetic West Caucasian languages, the morphological verbal complex amounts to a clause, with all kinds of participants cross-referenced by affixes. Relativization is performed by introducing a relative affix in the cross-reference slot which corresponds to the relativized participant. However, these languages display several cross-linguistically rare features of relativization. Firstly, while under the view of the verbal complex as a clause this affix appears to be a relative pronoun, it is an unusual relative pronoun because it remains in situ. Secondly, relative affixes may appear several times in the same clause. Thirdly, relative pronouns are not expected to occur in languages with prenominal relative clauses. Fourthly, in the Circassian branch, relative pronouns are identical to reflexive pronouns. These features are explained by considering relative prefixes to be resumptive pronouns. This interpretation finds a parallel in the neighboring East Caucasian languages, where reflexive pronouns also show resumptive usages. Finally, since in some West Caucasian languages the relative affix is a morpheme with a dedicated relative function but still shows properties of a resumptive pronoun, our data suggest that the distinction between relative pronouns and resumptive pronouns may not be so clear as is usually assumed.
We provide a critical review of the distinction between “comparative concepts” and “descriptive categories”, showing that in current typological practice the former are usually dependent on the latter and are often vague, being organized around prototypes rather than having sharp boundaries. We also propose a classification of comparative concepts, arguing that their definitions can be based on similarities between languages, on differences between languages, as well as admittedly be “blind” to language-particilar facts. We conclude that, first, comparative concepts and descriptive categories are not so sharply ontologically distinct as some typologists would like to have it, and, second, that attempts at a “non-aprioristic” approach to linguistic description and language typology are more an illusion than reality or even desideratum.
Gradience in syntax is often described as having prototype-based architecture. However, the syntactic prototypes postulated in literature are not all alike. In this paper, we distinguish between (i) true prototypes, which are based on clear linguistic evidence, (ii) liminal prototypes, which are associated with diachronically unstable patterns and hence cannot be precisely determined, and (iii) fake prototypes, which are based on effects that only reflect the diversity of sources of a phenomenon. In relation to these three kinds of concepts, we discuss relative clause constructions, serial verb constructions and the notion of subject.
The book includes papers devoted to relative clause constructions in the languages of the Caucasus and Iran.