[b-hebrew] Placeholders: )$R w/o antecedent

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Oct 21 01:12:42 EDT 2004

On 21/10/2004 02:27, C. Stirling Bartholomew wrote:

>In a previous discussion I called into question the use of empty
>constituents, a.k.a. placeholders, to mark the position of a fictitious
>antecedent in the analysis of )$R where it functions as a relative and has
>no antecedent, "Headless Relative."
>While fully admitting that I do this mentally while trying to sort out a
>complex clause structure, that is a far cry from the incorporation of dummy
>constituents into formal syntax theory. K.Lambrecht:1994* agrees that this
>is a bad policy. If your language model requires traces and placeholders for
>the analysis of syntax, semantics and information structure that is an
>indication that the model is defective.
I am not sure that it is correct to think of these constituents as 
dummies or placeholders. It seems to me that they are real constituents 
of a real sentence. Hebrew 'asher seems to me to work rather like 
(colloquial) Azerbaijani ki, whose syntactical function is clear to me. 
(ki is rather deprecated in formal written Azerbaijani.) ki is a 
conjunction, not a pronoun. What follows ki, or 'asher, is a fully 
formed sentence, with a pronoun used for the constituent which is linked 
with the main clause. But this pronoun is dropped if it is the subject 
in the same way that any pronoun subject can be dropped. And sometimes 
it is dropped if it is the object or another constituent, if there is no 
ambiguity, just as in normal sentences the object or other constituent 
can sometimes be dropped if clear from the context.

As for what precedes ki (or 'asher), the antecedent can be either a 
whole sentence (in which case the ki clause is at the end) or an 
individual noun phrase (in which case the ki clause follows it).

Does that way of looking at 'asher help you?

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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