Scottish Gaelic Prepositional Relatives: the Problem of Inflection

Christine Sheil


Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language spoken mainly in the western islands of Scotland, has two patterns of relativization on prepositional complements: a pied-piping pattern and a stranding one. The pied-piping pattern involves the relative complementizer an. An forces fronting of the preposition, which then appears with definite inflection. The stranding pattern involves the main relative complementizer a, which requires the preposition to remain in situ with 3MSG inflection. This paper analyzes the pied-piping pattern, assuming Adger and Ramchand (2005)’s static Agree analysis for the stranding one. I propose that the pied-piping pattern involves a relative operator and movement. The relative operator is not null, but identical with the definite article (following Arregi 2000 for Spanish) with the exception of a [REL] feature which triggers movement to spec,CP. I term this combination of features the Definite Operator. Under this account, Scottish Gaelic is not so different from other Indo-European languages like Spanish and German in its use of the definite article in forming relative clauses. Unlike Spanish and German, Scottish Gaelic requires deletion of the definite operator, with the result that it is detectable only in the definite inflection on the pied-piped preposition.

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria