English/Spanish Relatives and Their Relative Information Structure: A View from Language Contact in Puerto Rico



The goal of this paper is to analyse the impact of Main Clause Phenomena (MCP) such as Negative Preposing (NPr) in four types of relative clauses, namely definite restrictive, indefinite restrictive, non-restrictive and kind-defining relative clauses, establishing a contrast between English and Spanish and discussing the interconnection of the two languages in a language contact situation such as the one observed in Puerto Rico. To this end, I have carried out an experiment with monolingual native speakers of the two languages (control groups), where they have to judge the grammaticality/acceptability of the different types of relatives when NPr takes place. In addition, the same task is carried out by a bilingual group of Puerto Ricans (PR). The main purpose was to detect any interference of one language upon the other one regarding the licensing conditions of NPr in relative clauses. The main empirical result shows that English makes a distinction in terms of acceptability between types of relatives with NPr, whereas in Spanish NPr is licensed in all types of relatives, and this situation seems to be mimicked in the language contact situation in Puerto Rico, though some crucial differences are detected which suggest that PR bilinguals have an integrated I-language (sensu López 2020). The results support the idea that there are two big groups of relatives, namely asserted (very similar to root clauses) and non-asserted relatives. The latter include definite restrictive relatives, whereas the former include non-restrictive relatives, kind-defining relatives and indefinite restrictive relatives. Based on discourse-feature inheritance, intervention and the projection of a factive operator in non-asserted relatives (subject to parametric variation), I argue that the PR results show that when processing one specific language they may apply a syntactic rule of the other language, which I take to support the integrationist view of bilingualism.


negative preposing, relative clauses, assertion, main clause phenomena, experiment, parametric variation, language contact, Puerto Rican bilinguals


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