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Free relatives in Maltese

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image of Brill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics

This paper makes a contribution to our understanding of free relative clauses (FRCs) in Maltese, in particular so-called plain, standard or non -ever free relative clauses. We demonstrate that such FRCs are interpreted as definites, consistent with the findings in much previous literature on other languages. However, we also show that Maltese has not one but two strategies for plain (realis or definite) FRCs: alongside FRCs formed using a wh-word we also find FRCs introduced by the complementising element li, inconsistent with the seemingly widespread assumption that FRCs necessarily involve a wh-word. Both strategies give rise to definite interpretations. Additionally, we argue that definite or realis wh- FRCs are to be distinguished from a different (but apparently structurally identical) type, the so-called irrealis free relative clause or modal existential construction, which has not been previously identified for Maltese. We show that this subset of free relatives exhibit the properties associated with the modal existential construction crosslinguistically. We then demonstrate the existence of a subtype of headed relative clauses in Maltese which also share a number of the properties which we identify in the Maltese modal existential construction.

Affiliations: 1: University of Essex, UK ; 2: University of Essex, UK


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