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The Structure of Relative Clauses

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Understanding relative clauses

In-depth insight into relative clauses in European languages can be of benefit to many applications. These include improved language research in universities and advanced speech recognition and speech therapy.

Climate Change and Environment

The relative clause in language acts like an adjective in describing a noun. These clauses are colourful and complex, giving language unlimited variety and expressiveness. The EU-funded project 'The structure of relative clauses' (RC) is examining these descriptive clauses with all their idiosyncrasies in Germanic, Romance and Slavic languages. The project is comparing the syntax and semantic properties of relative clauses, including position in sentence, coordination and extraction. It is also looking at the influence that these three language groups have on each other with respect to relative clauses, examining unique properties and hybrid language constructions. This is being accomplished through language surveys and specialised language tests. To achieve its goals, the project closely reviewed literature on the subject in Europe and the United States. It has begun developing language questionnaires and interviews for use with native speakers to provide a picture of speaker preferences at college level and by region. The project expects to develop a comprehensive theory of how relative clauses are formed. This has an impact at the academic level, but also at the junction between industry and science such as in efforts to improve voice recognition or study learning disorders. New techniques for speech therapy may be developed from the project. The project team has outlined further areas of research to support the elaboration of a unified theory of relative clause formation, opening up new avenues of language research and applications. Relative clauses, it seems, offer much more than meets the eye.

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