Relative clause

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The relative clause (from Latin relativus "referring to something, regarding") is a special kind of subordinate clause in grammar and is usually used to indicate a property of a person or an object. It is therefore dependent on a noun (attributive relative clause) or has the same status as a noun group in the sentence (free relative clause). There are also other special forms.

Relative clauses, or parts of sentences with a corresponding function, are formed in very different ways in the languages ​​of the world; In German, education with a relative pronoun predominates.

internal structure

Relative clauses can be marked in different ways:

In front of a specially marked part of the sentence

relative pronoun

z. B. der, die, das; which, which, which , French qui / que , English who / whom / whose, which .

  • The car, which I bought yesterday.
  • French: La voiture que j'ai achetée here est déjà en panne. The car, which I bought yesterday has already broken. '
  • Engl .: the car which I bought yesterday.
Relative adverb

z. B. where , how , there , as , franz. où, quand , engl. where, when .

  • French: fleurissent les fleurs je m'affalerai. , There, where the flowers bloom, I leave myself down. '
  • Engl .: At the time when he was king in Aquitaine ... 'At the time when he was king in Aquitaine ...'
  • The way how they dress.
  • As fast as you can.

Instead of the mentioned relative pronouns and relative adverbs as single words, larger units can sometimes be placed in front that contain additional material in addition to the relative pronoun; this results in the so-called rat catcher construction :

  • (The perpetrator) for whose capture a high reward was offered, ...

Relative clauses as subordinate clauses with a gap

Relative clauses can be formed by leaving a space instead of the clause that is otherwise occupied by a relative pronoun / adverb. This is a very common strategy in a language comparison, but it is rarely found in German:

Subtype: Relative clause without any identification

  • Engl .: The house [I live in ---] 'The house in which I live.'
  • German: So fast [--- it works]

Subtype: relative clause with conjunction

Relative clauses can also be introduced with a (special or non-specialized) conjunction . The missing part of the sentence is not present either as a pronoun or as an adverb. For example, that is a conjunction:

  • Engl .: The house [that I live in ---]. , The house in which I live. '

Such constructions also exist in German dialects, for more details see the keyword: Relative pronouns # Differentiation between relative pronouns and conjunctions in German .

Identification by special verb forms

The marking of a relative clause on the verb is a strategy that z. B. in Celtic languages ​​finds:

Relative verb ending
  • Old Irish : It moíni car tar lib, nídat doíni. 'It is treasures that are dear to you, not people.'
  • Old Irish: Ad · cíu in ningin car as in rí. 'I see the girl the King loves.'

Reference: attributive and free relative clauses

The relative clause can depend on a clause ( attribute relative clause , i.e. the relative clause is an attribute of the noun), or it is a clause itself, namely subject, object or adverbial (so-called free relative clause ).

Examples of attributive relative clauses (function: attribute set ):

  • Sabine , who is currently cooking , gives the child potatoes with butter. (attributive: reference to the subject)
  • Sabine gives the child , who is always screaming , potatoes with butter. (Reference to the dative object)
  • Sabine gives the child potatoes , which she peeled before cooking , with butter. (Reference to accusative object)

Examples of free relative clauses (function: clause ):

  • Sabine gives the child what it wants . (free relative clause: this is itself the accusative object)
  • If you want potatoes, you can get some too. (free relative clause as subject)
  • Everyone can eat where they want . (free relative clause as local adverbial)

Another special form is the advanced relative clause: This is a non-integrated subordinate clause, i.e. not a part of a sentence . It is formally a subordinate clause, but connects to the preceding clause in a way that could be done with a new main clause with the same meaning:

  • Sabine gives the child potatoes with butter, which is economical, but not very sensible of her .
(Continuing relative clause, which takes up the previous complete clause. An alternative would be, for example: This is economical, but not very sensible of her. )

Position in the total sentence

The relative clause is naturally next to the noun to which it refers, but further away than a genitive attribute:

  • He even knew [painters of the Middle Ages who otherwise had been almost completely forgotten].

Particularly in the case of long and complex relative clauses, the relative clause can also be placed in the trailing field of the clause :

  • He had known [the painters] [who had been forgotten by everyone else, dead or alive]. (Instead of: he had known the painters who ...)

Semantic function

Restrictive relative clause

Intonation of a restrictive relative clause, by Snježana Kordić

The restrictive relative clause limits the number of possible references of the reference quantity.

  • This is the article , I wanted to read (and no other).

Restrictive relative clauses are usually part of a definite identifier; the reference variable can be given a demonstrative pronoun to reinforce it .

  • This is one item , I wanted to read .

But there are also restrictive relative clauses that refer to an indefinite noun group and make it identifiable:

  • Yesterday I met a woman who graduated from high school with me.

Restrictive relative clauses are compulsory for the sentence construction, in the spoken language this is supported by different types of intonation (phonetics) .

Explicative relative clause

The explicit relative clause (also appositive , non-restrictive relative clause) gives a more detailed description of the reference variable.

  • Jens , who was born in Schönkirchen , now lives in Mainz.

Explicative relative clauses are optional for the sentence construction, the description of the reference variable can also be made outside of the sentence.

  • Jens now lives in Mainz. He was born in Schönkirchen.

Explicative relative clauses are attributes ; To underline their attributive character (and to distinguish them from the restrictive relative clauses), one can add an adverb to the subordinate clause .

  • Jens, who by the way (as is well known, apparently, at least ...) was born in Schönkirchen , now lives in Mainz.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Relative clause  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See the discussion on this in: Bernard Comrie: Relative Clauses. Structure and typology on the periphery of standard English. In Peter Collins & David Lee (eds.): The clause in English: in honor of Rodney Huddleston. John Benjamin, Amsterdam 1999, pp. 81-91.