On the computational modeling of English relative clauses

Sandiway Fong, Jason Ginsburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Even in this era of parameter-heavy statistical modeling requiring large training datasets, we believe explicit symbolic models of grammar have much to offer, especially when it comes to modeling complex syntactic phenomena using a minimal number of parameters. It is the goal of explanatory symbolic models to make explicit a minimal set of features that license phrase structure, and thus, they should be of interest to engineers seeking parameter-efficient language models. Relative clauses have been much studied and have a long history in linguistics. We contribute a feature-driven account of the formation of a variety of basic English relative clauses in the Minimalist Program framework that is precisely defined, descriptively adequate, and computationally feasible in the sense that we have not observed an exponential scaling with the number of heads in the Lexical Array. Following previous work, we assume an analysis involving a uT feature and uRel feature, possibly simultaneously valued. In this article, we show a detailed mechanical implementation of this analysis and describe the structures computed for that, which, and who/whom relatives for standard English.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220246
JournalOpen Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • computational modeling
  • English relative clauses
  • Minimalist Program

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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