A new article by Carol-Rose Little (McGill BA ’12), Scott AnderBois (Brown University) and Jessica Coon was just published online at Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.

Title: Type-shifting in headless relative clauses

Abstract: Research on the (in)definiteness of bare nouns has developed various proposals regarding which type-shifters exist in human language and which principles are needed to govern their distribution (Carlson 1977; Partee 1987; Chierchia 1998; Dayal 2004; i.a.). At the same time, literature on headless relative clauses (HRCs), primarily focusing on free relatives (FRs) in Indo-European languages, has also developed type-shifting principles (Jacobson 1995; Caponigro 2003, 2004). The type-shifting principles from the FR literature, however, are fundamentally different than those found in proposals for bare nouns. Here, we present case studies from two Mayan languages which diverge from one another in the behavior of bare nouns, and which possess several different kinds of headless relative clauses. We show that “super-free relative clauses” (Caponigro et al. 2021; Caponigro 2022), which lack a wh-word, pattern in ways parallel to bare nouns in the respective languages. We also demonstrate that HRCs headed by a wh-word—i.e., FRs—diverge from bare nouns; they pattern similarly to one another across the languages under investigation, and in ways similar to what has been reported for FRs crosslinguistically. We provide evidence that there is a dedicated FR type-shifter (FR-ι) used as a post-syntactic mechanism to repair a type-mismatch at the CP level, building on work by Caponigro (2004). Our novel contribution is that this type-shifter is available regardless of the presence or absence of other type-shifters in a language. This paper adds new data to our understanding of the range and applicability of different definiteness-related type-shifters as well as captures certain typological tendencies regarding HRCs.