Relative clause constructions in New Indo-Aryan languages: Hierarchies of macro roles


  • Sakura Ishikawa Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
  • Shigeki Yoshida University of Tokyo


Since the seminal work by Keenan & Comrie (1977), typological studies have shown that languages vary with respect to the range of arguments that can be relativized on. In this study, we systematically examine what can be relativized in five New Indo-Aryan (NIA) languages: Hindi-Urdu, Nepali, Early Nepali, Sinhala, and Bengali. Inspired by typological studies on relative clauses, we conducted our examination using a novel systematic methodology. First, we examined both headless and headed relative clauses. Second, we examined relativization on arguments for each of the macro roles S, A, P, T, and R. Lastly, we examined every participial strategy for relative clause constructions when a language had different participles for tense or aspect. Our investigation showed that there are both similarities and differences in the relativizability of NPs in relative clause constructions in the five NIA languages examined. On the one hand, in each language examined, arguments of the same range of macro roles can be relativized on in both headed and headless relative clauses. On the other hand, the five languages differ as to which macro roles can be relativized on. Based on this difference of the relativizability of NPs and our novel methodology, we propose hierarchies of relativizability for these NIA languages. The hierarchies are the onset-oriented hierarchy {S} > {A} > {P, T, R} for relative clause constructions by imperfective/nonpast participles and the termination-oriented hierarchy {S, P, T} > {A} > {R} for those by perfective/past participles. We explained these hierarchies in terms of viewpoint, localist metaphor, and a metonymy relationship.