8.6. Relative clauses and descriptors

So far, this chapter has described the various kinds of relative clauses (including relative phrases). The list is now complete, and the rest of the chapter will be concerned with the syntax of sumti that include relative clauses. So far, all relative clauses have appeared directly after the sumti to which they are attached. This is the most common position (and originally the only one), but a variety of other placements are also possible which produce a variety of semantic effects.

There are actually three places where a relative clause can be attached to a description sumti: after the descriptor (le, lo, or whatever), after the embedded selbri but before the elidable terminator (which is ku), and after the ku. The relative clauses attached to descriptors that we have seen have occupied the second position. Thus Example 8.43, if written out with all elidable terminators, would appear as:

Example 8.47. 

le gerku poi blabi ku'o ku cu klama vau
The (dog which (is-white ) )   goes .

The dog which is white is going.

Here ku'o is the terminator paired with poi and ku with le, and vau is the terminator of the whole bridi.

When a simple descriptor using le, like le gerku, has a relative clause attached, it is purely a matter of style and emphasis where the relative clause should go. Therefore, the following examples are all equivalent in meaning to Example 8.47:

Example 8.48. 

le poi blabi ku'o gerku cu klama
The such-that-( it-is-white ) dog   goes.

Example 8.49. 

le gerku ku poi blabi cu klama
The (dog ) which is-white   goes.

Example 8.47 will seem most natural to speakers of languages like English, which always puts relative clauses after the noun phrases they are attached to; Example 8.48, on the other hand, may seem more natural to Finnish or Chinese speakers, who put the relative clause first. Note that in Example 8.48, the elidable terminator ku'o must appear, or the selbri of the relative clause (blabi) will merge with the selbri of the description (gerku), resulting in an ungrammatical sentence. The purpose of the form appearing in Example 8.49 will be apparent shortly.

As is explained in detail in Section 6.7, two different numbers (known as the inner quantifier and the outer quantifier) can be attached to a description. The inner quantifier specifies how many things the descriptor refers to: it appears between the descriptor and the description selbri. The outer quantifier appears before the descriptor, and specifies how many of the things referred to by the descriptor are involved in this particular bridi. In the following example,

Example 8.50. 

re   le mu prenu cu klama le zarci
Two of the five persons   go-to the market.

Two of the five people [that I have in mind] are going to the market.

mu is the inner quantifier and re is the outer quantifier. Now what is meant by attaching a relative clause to the sumti re le mu prenu? Suppose the relative clause is poi ninmu (meaning who are women). Now the three possible attachment points discussed previously take on significance.

Example 8.51. 

re   le poi ninmu ku'o
Two of the such-that([they] are-women )
mu prenu cu klama le zarci
five persons   go-to the market.

Two women out of the five persons go to the market.

Example 8.52. 

re   le mu prenu poi ninmu [ku] cu klama le zarci
Two of the (five persons which-( are-women) )   go-to the market.

Two of the five women go to the market.

Example 8.53. 

re   le mu prenu ku poi ninmu cu klama le zarci
(Two of the five persons ) which-( are-women ) go-to the market.

Two women out of the five persons go to the market.

As the parentheses show, Example 8.52 means that all five of the persons are women, whereas Example 8.53 means that the two who are going to the market are women. How do we remember which is which? If the relative clause comes after the explicit ku, as in Example 8.53, then the sumti as a whole is qualified by the relative clause. If there is no ku, or if the relative clause comes before an explicit ku, then the relative clause is understood to apply to everything which the underlying selbri applies to.

What about Example 8.51? By convention, it means the same as Example 8.53, and it requires no ku, but it does typically require a ku'o instead. Note that the relative clause comes before the inner quantifier.

When le is the descriptor being used, and the sumti has no explicit outer quantifier, then the outer quantifier is understood to be ro (meaning all), as is explained in Section 6.7. Thus le gerku is taken to mean all of the things I refer to as dogs, possibly all one of them. In that case, there is no difference between a relative clause after the ku or before it. However, if the descriptor is lo, the difference is quite important:

Example 8.54. 

lo prenu ku noi blabi cu klama le zarci
(Some persons ) incidentally-which-( are-white ) go-to the market.

Some people, who are white, go to the market.

Example 8.55. 

lo prenu noi blabi [ku] cu klama le zarci
Some (persons incidentally-which are-white )   go to-the market.

Some of the people, who by the way are white, go to the market.

Both Example 8.54 and Example 8.55 tell us that one or more persons are going to the market. However, they make very different incidental claims. Now, what does lo prenu noi blabi mean? Well, the default inner quantifier is ro (meaning all), and the default outer quantifier is su'o (meaning at least one). Therefore, we must first take all persons, then choose at least one of them. That one or more people will be going.

In Example 8.54, the relative clause described the sumti once the outer quantifier was applied: one or more people, who are white, are going. But in Example 8.55, the relative clause actually describes the sumti before the outer quantification is applied, so that it ends up meaning First take all persons – by the way, they're all white. But not all people are white, so the incidental claim being made here is false.

The safe strategy, therefore, is to always use ku when attaching a noi relative clause to a lo descriptor. Otherwise we may end up claiming far too much.

When the descriptor is la, indicating that what follows is a selbri used for naming, then the positioning of relative clauses has a different significance. A relative clause inside the ku, whether before or after the selbri, is reckoned part of the name; a relative clause outside the ku is not. Therefore,

Example 8.56. 

mi viska la nanmu poi terpa le ke'a xirma [ku]
I see that-named-( man which fears the of-IT horse ).

I see Man Afraid Of His Horse.

says that the speaker sees a person with a particular name, who does not necessarily fear any horses, whereas

Example 8.57. 

mi viska la nanmu ku poi terpa le ke'a xirma.
I see that-named-( Man ) which fears the of-IT horse.

I see the person named Man who is afraid of his horse.

refers to one (or more) of those named Man, namely the one(s) who are afraid of their horses.

Finally, so-called indefinite sumti like re karce, which means almost the same as re lo karce (which in turn means the same as re lo ro karce), can have relative clauses attached; these are taken to be of the outside-the- ku variety. Here is an example:

Example 8.58. 

mi ponse re karce [ku] poi xekri
I possess two cars   which-are black.

The restrictive relative clause only affects the two cars being affected by the main bridi, not all cars that exist. It is ungrammatical to try to place a relative clause within an indefinite sumti (that is, before an explicitly expressed terminating ku.) Use an explicit lo instead.