Partee has nice summary about the formal semantics of relative clause http://people.umass.edu/partee/MGU_2005/MGU05Lec10.pdf (subordinate adjectival clause). E.g. At least one boy who Mary loves is happy has semantics ∃x (boy(x) & loves(x)(Mary) & happy(x))

My question is - is it possible to represent adverbial clauses in such manner? AS far as I know, then https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10849-017-9246-2 is the most up-to-date analysis of adverbs but it does not include analysis of adverbial clauses which seems to be quite intricate thing: it seems to me that entire clause modifies the verb. E.g. you can sit where you like - the entire clause you like modifies the verb sit. And it is big difference from relative clause - relative clause can be separated as standalone clause which has anaphoric pronoun and this separate clause can be added to the knowledge base. But it is quite different - it seems to me - with adverbial clause which is not understandable if it is taken as separate sentence. I.e. - what to do with the word which?

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    Note that the semantics given above does not distinguish between what is asserted and what is presupposed (i.e, the relative clause). The sentence does not assert loves(x)(Mary).
    – jlawler
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 0:25
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    @jlawler, It doesn't? ∃x (boy(x) & loves(x)(Mary) & happy(x)) does imply ∃x (loves(x)(Mary))
    – Greg Lee
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 3:07
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    The logical analysis asserts that there is such a boy; the relative clause presupposes it. One of the differences between language and logic; logic is just a stick-figure model of meaning.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 3:22
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    It is only the relative clauses of definite constructions which are presupposed (because if the relative clause is false, the definite NP fails to refer). But this is an indefinite construction, so what you say is not so.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 10:16
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    It's not an adverbial clause. "You can sit where you like" is a fused relative construction (the free choice kind) in which "where" combines the functions of antecedent and relativised element. It's very close in meaning to the integrated relative "You can sit anywhere you like".
    – BillJ
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


I don't see the problem. If you know how to handle restrictive relative clauses, then you must know how to handle adverbial clauses. The example "you can sit where you like" means "you can sit in any place in which you like to sit". Except for some superficial syntax, the "adverbial clause" is a restrictive relative already. (Jonnie and Mike Geis both wrote dissertations at the University of Illinois proposing this kind of analysis.)

I don't know what it would mean for an adverb clause to modify a verb. But anyhow, that's not what they do.

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