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Shuang Position of Relative Clause

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					       The Study of Position of Relative Clause in Written Context
Hu Shuang Ling 671 Fall, 2008

Introduction


 Relative clause is a type of complex post-nominal adjectival modifier used in both

written and spoken English, which has brought a lot of teaching challenge to ESL

teachers (Murcia &Larsen-Freeman, 574). The concept “The Noun phrase accessibility

hierarchy” is a prevailing theory that provides an explanation of how the relative clause is

acquired. The basic idea of this theory is that since a subject noun phrase can become a

relative form more easily than an object noun phrase, it is more accessible to

relativization. Furthermore, a direct object is more accessible than an indirect object,

which is more accessible than an object of a preposition, and so on. This hierarchy is

illustrated as follows (Keenan & Comrie, 1977):


 Subject > Direct Object > Indirect Object > Oblique > Genitive > Object of


 comparative


 Fox (1987) re-examined the far-left side of this hierarchy and challenged the subject

primacy hypothesis by analyzing the spoken data and proposed the Absolute hypothesis,

which was developed on the basis of Du Bois (1987)’ s Preferred Argument Structure

Hypothesis, to a large extent.


 The position of relative clause is an inevitable topic, as far as the acquisition of relative

clause is concerned. It is generally believed that the second language learners are much

successful at learning to use the relative clause in sentence final position than those in the

middle position.
  The present study is to examine the distribution of the positions of relative clauses in

written data, including academic papers and newspaper, in the general terms of the

medial and final positions. In addition, the meaning of the relative clause in context is

explored on the basis of qualitative analysis of data. Some teaching suggestions at the end

are provided, with an attempt to help EFL teachers to explain the basic structure and

usage of relative clause in simple and comprehensive way.




Literature review


  The study was conducted by Swets and Zeitlinger(1994) to explore the position of

relative clauses on the basis of analyzing the Lancaster/ IBM Spoken English Corpus. In

order to study the position of relative clauses, four categories are made for analysis:

Restrict relative clause in the Middle position, Non-restrictive relative clause in the

Middle position, Restrictive relative clause at the End and Non-restrictive relative clause

at the End. The results showed that relative clause is preferred to occur at the end of the

utterance rather than placed somewhere in the middle of the utterance. The relative

clauses inserted in the middle of the utterance tend to be shorter than those at the end. In

addition, even though the relative clause comes in the middle of the utterance, it is more

likely that it is placed at the end of the meaningful part.


  Relevant findings came from Yule (1998), who claims that the relative clause can be

placed in the middle or in the final position of a main clause, when it is connected to the

main clause.
  In this case, when position of relative clause is concerned, relative clause can be

categorized by the relationship between the antecedent noun and the relative noun, as

follows: S-O, S-S, O-S and O-O.


For instance:


    [1] The woman that the man wants to marry has a large dog.(S-O)


                subject object


    [2] The man who lives next door has a cat. (S-S)


            subject subject


     [3] I came across the man who has a cat that (O-S)


                 object          subject


     [4] I also met the woman that the man wants to marry. (O-O)


                          Object     object


  From the observation on the structural connections between main clauses and relative

clauses, relative clauses are found in final position after the direct objects of the main

clause, as in [4] and also after the antecedents that are objects of preposition in the main

clause, as in [3]


  He also claimed that while acquiring the relative clauses, the second language learners

are much more successfully mastering those in final position than those in medial

position. The structure of O-S type tend to be acquired most successfully by ESL
learners, where the last element (object) of the main clause and the first element (subject)

of the relative clause are connected; while they have difficulty in producing the type of S-

S and S-O, that is, the two medial position structures.


Method


The written data will be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively to demonstrate the

distribution of the position of relative clause and their meaning in the context.


Materials:


Academic paper: Role of ploy (ADP-ribose) synthetase in inflammation and ischaemia-


                  Reperfusion (10 pages)


Newspaper: The Money & Investigation Section in The Wall Street Journal (8 pages)


Data Analysis:


  The relative clauses in the written data are categorized into restricted relative clause

(R) and non-restricted relative clause(Non-R), in order to identify their distribution of the

position of the relative clauses in the data. Then these two categories are individually

subdivided into the subject relative clauses and object relative clause to figure out the

detail distributive characteristics of the relative clauses in the data.


Here the S-relative clause refers to the relative clause used to modify the subject of the

main clause, while the O-relative clause refers to the relative clause used to modify the

object of the main clause.


For instance:
S-relative clause:


VersaSun, which is based in Sioux Falls, S.D., avidly rode investors enthusiasm for

ethanol, a corn-based product typically mixed with gasoline.


O-relative clause:


As recently as 1995, 73.5% of Berkshire’s total asserts consisted of a portfolio of publicly

traded stocks that any investor could have replicated.


The distribution of the position of the relative clause:


In academic paper


Table 1.


                                       Medial Position     Final Position


                                   R         Non-R          R        Non-R


S-relative clause                  6           5               4         7


O-relative clause                  3           9                3        20


Total                                   23                     34




In the newspaper


Table 2
                                     Medial Position          Final Position


                                     R        Non-R             R            Non-R


S-relative clause                     10         2                  3          7


O-relative clause                      12        5                16           10


Total                                 28                                36




By observing the results table1 and table2, the relative clause is preferred to occur in the

final position rather than the medial position in the written data, as the same results found

in the spoken data by the previous studies. Obviously the non-restrictive relative clauses

are more likely to occur in the final position. This tendency of placing relative clause in

the final position is stronger in the non-restrictive relative clause rather than restrictive

clause. The relative clauses used to modify the object of main clause are likely to occur

in the final position, while those used to modify the subject of main clause are likely to

occur in the medial position. In addition, the relative clause used to modify the object of

the main clause appear more frequently than that used to modify the subject of the main

clause, which may mean the former one may more accessible to language learners in the

acquisition of English as a second language.


  Besides that, the detail distribution of position of relative clause is different in these two

different styles, especially shown in the non-restrictive relative clause, which can be

further worked on in a new angle.
Meaning in context


  The differences in the structure of relative clause are connected to the difference in t

how information is presented in speaker or writer’ s message. The basic organization of

English sentences containing relative clauses can be explained in terms of information

structure, including the introduction of new information and connection with given

information.


  Fox (1987) re-examine “The Noun phrase accessibility hierarchy” on the far left side

and re-categorized the subject and object relative clauses into A-relatives, P-relatives and

S-relatives. She further claims that the given information or the theme of the sentence is

often coded by a pronoun in A-relative clauses in spoken discourse, while the new

information or the rheme of the sentence is coded by full NPs or often with P- and S-

relative clauses.


 The present study is to demonstrate how information is structured in the relative clause

in relation to its position in the sentence, namely final and medial position. Based on the

observable facts in the data, generally speaking, the relative clause in the final position is

typically used to introduce new information, while the relative clause in the medial

position is used to make a connection with already established, or given information. In

the following part, examples extracted from the data will be shown to make a further

explanation.


For instance:


Final position: Introducing new information
The firm is under a separate court order in Delaware that admonishes it to use its best

efforts to close the $ 6.5 billion bill.


  In this sentence, the firm is assumed to be known by readers, which can be treated as

given, since it is the central element of this news and has been mentioned several times

above. The noun phrase “ a separate court order in Delaware”, at this point, is being

presented as new. The relative clause “ that admonishes it to use its best efforts to close

the $6.5 billion bill” in the final position is the new information in the whole information

structure.


There were a host of things that have sold off to extraordinarily ridiculous level.


This positive feed-forward cycle might explain the reduced peroxynitrite generation that

was detected in the animal treated with PARS inhibition during myocardial reperfusion.


  Those sentences also provide evidence to demonstrate that relative clause in the final

position is used to introduce the new information.


Medial position: Connection with given information


Ameriprise Financial Inc. , a broker that the company met on October, alleges in a

federal lawsuit…….


Based on the analysis of the data, it is obvious that relative clauses in medial position

typically modify the subject, so they are used to identify what is already assumed to be

known or given. That given information, expressed in a relative clause, is generally

placed inside the main clause. In this example, the relative clause “the company met on
October” is inserted to modify the subject “the broker” in the main clause and provide the

given information.


  Based on the qualitative analysis of the data, it has a tendency that relative clause

connecting to an object in the final position is typically used to introduce new

Information, whereas a relative clause connecting to the subject in the medial position is

typically used to make a connection with given information.




Teaching implication:


1. A common exercise format for indentifying the positions of relative clause and

practicing their basic structures is to provide learners with two sentences and invite them

to combine those sentences into a single sentence containing a relative clause. During this

process, students will be able to find the way to put the relative clauses in the appropriate

positions on their own. One noun phrase has to be identical in each of the sentence pairs.


    For instance:


         I want to catch the plane. The plane leaves at noon.


        The money has been stolen. I left the money in the box.


    After learners have a mastery of how to solve these problems, it may be helpful to

    discuss with students the fact that there are several choices in some examples and

    those choices fit different contexts. In this case, EFL teachers can figure out what the

    students lack in this aspect and modify their teaching content correspondingly.
2. Another way to help the students get familiar with the position of relative clause to

insert the extra information to the original sentence, which can be considered as the main

clause. This can be realized by the simple sentence-combing type of excise or by a more

interesting text-elaborate type of excise.


The simple sentence-combing excise:


For instance: Original sentence: My friend buys a lot of books in the bookstore.


           Extra- information sentences: He doesn’t read them most of the time.


                                             The bookstore is on the left side of the Wall


                                             Street.


In the text excise, the extra information has been inserted in the text and learners are

invited to coherent relative clauses in a proper way, especially taking some consideration

of the pragmatic meaning of the text.


3. The “OK, or not OK exercise” (Tarone and Yule, 1989) can be adopted here to help

the learners acquire the relative clause. This excise aims at discovering and concentrating

on the specific aspects of those English relative clauses that learners are consistently

going wrong. In this excise, a set of relative clauses are provided to the students, who can

comprehend what these sentence are talking about. The relative clauses are put in

different positions in the example, mainly in the wrong way. The students are invited to

judge the appropriateness of the basic structure of the relative clauses and provide their

own reason.


For instance:
   The people arrived later who was coming by bus. Ok/ not Ok


   The book that was lying on the table wasn’t there now. Ok/ not Ok.


4. Toward more proficient learners, the task can be designed to challenge them to identify

a range of relative clauses in different types of context, which may be efficient for

students to identify the proper usage of relative clause in different style of writing

materials. For instance, the material used in the excise can be from the newspaper and

academic writing, the students are required to identify and compare the relative clauses in

the chosen material, in order to develop their awareness of some aspects of the

composition of extended discourse English.




Conclusion


  Teaching relative clause is always a troublesome task for EFL learners, especially

when the basic structure of relative clause is concerned. In this study, the position of

relative clause was touched on and discussed on the basis of the analysis of the written

data. It is found out that the relative clause is preferred to appear in the final position of

the relative clause rather than in the medial position, which is embodied more obviously

in the non-restricted relative clause. In addition, the relative clause used to modify the

subject of the main clause tends to occur in the medial position, while those used to

modify the object of the main clause tends to occur in the final position. Based on this

preliminary of the position of the relative clause in the written data, the information

structure of relative clause is identified in terms of final and medial position. The general

tendency is that the relative clause in the final position is typically used to introduce new
information, while the relative clause in the medial position is used to make a connection

with already established, or given information. Teaching suggestion at the end is

proposed with an attempt to show EFL teachers an easy way to teach the relative clause,

especially in the aspect of basic structure. The distribution of non-restricted relative

clause differs a little in different writing styles, which can be further explored from a new

angle in the near further.


This research has achieved some interesting findings, but the report is lack of focus

and some discussions were unclear or even misleading.


For instance, the absolutive hypothesis was introduced in the beginning but it did

not seem to be related to the rest of the discussion.


The summary in the conclusion is nice, but the same information should have been

placed in the beginning to let the readers know what this study is about.


84/100
                                      Reference


Celce-Murcia, Marianne, Howard Alan Williams, and Diane Larsen-Freeman (1998).
   Grammar Book: An ESLEFL Teacher's Course. New York: Newbury House, 599-
  607.
Fox, Barbara A (1987). "The Noun Phrase Accessibility Hierarchy Reinterpreted: Subject
   Primacy or the Absolutive Hypothesis." Language 63 (1978): 856-70.
Swets, and Zeitlinger (1994). "An Analysis of Relative Clause in the Lancaster/IBM
    spoken English Corpus." English Studies: 73-84.
Yule, George (1998). Explaining English Grammar. New York: Oxford UP, 257-69.

				
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