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Parsing for complementizers that have filler-gap dependencies

Home » English Grammar & Linguistics » The SAP » Parsing for complementizers that have filler-gap dependencies

In the following examples, each modifying clause “contains a ‘gap,’ while the head noun is interpreted as the thing which fills this gap, making the sentence complete. . . . In English, this kind of “filler–gap” structure is also found in content (or wh-) questions and several other constructions, such as clefting and topicalization.” [1]

The underscore (_) represents the relationship, or filler-gap dependency, between the complementizer and a gap.

Relativizer (that) in topicalizations

The head-initialized antecedent (italicized) has a relativizer (bolded) that is the syntactic head of a full clause, the embedded clause (coloured amber).

  • “It’s really an important public health strategy that we have people thinking about_.”
  • “Yes, and I think that it’s something thatI had to find a way to understandas an adult.”

Complementizers (i.e., whatwherewhen, etc.) in wh-questions

The complementizer together with the embedded clause (coloured amber) performs the role of a complement, a subordinate clause that functions as the subject or the object of particular verbs.

  • Dell-Dell’s life was as what she would have imagined her septuagenarian years to be_. (The complement is an object relative clause, which has a gap.)
  • She sipped from a glass what looked like orange juice. (The complement is a subject relative clause: She sipped what looked like orange juice.)

A Harvard University paper by Wilcox, Ethan, et al. (2018) stated that “filler–gap dependency refers to a relationship between a filler, which is a wh-complementizer such as ‘what’ or ‘who’, and a gap, which is an empty syntactic position licensed by the filler.”[2]

SUMMARY/OBSERVATIONS: The first two sentences have a that-clause that functions as an appositive or what is known as an expletive because the that-clause does not serve a grammatical function. In the third sentence, there is a filler-gap dependency, wherein the wh-interrogative, or complementizer, introduces an embedded clause. The word what fills a gap created by the verb, i.e., to be what. And in the last sentence, the entire clause functions as a subject, i.e., She sipped what looked like orange juice.

Garie McIntosh
Garie McIntosh
Hi, I’m Garie. Since 2016, I’ve been engaged in intense academic studies and research through problem-based learning. This has been a time during which I discovered the learning theories that work for me, and applied them so that I could teach myself not only English grammar but also the linguistic aspect of the language. My objective is to engender understanding through the Socratic and the life-affirming and build new knowledge through making innovative connections. I have formally translated my learning education into McIntoshLinguistics, an organization that I developed on the Microsoft platform. The organization enables me to use my educational and grammatical editing model to support educational processes and meet traditional publishing standards. Through a Microsoft Qualified Educational User designation, the objective is to utilize Microsoft Teams Education to build a professional learning community and create unique processes and methods through grammatical and linguistic studies. As a literary fiction writer, I have published my first novel, “What’s in a Name.” By utilizing Microsoft applications to help me develop and formalize pedagogical processes and methods, I am able to produce manuscripts that are highly readable and semantically sound.

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