For example:

"An apple that my mother bought yesterday"

In the example, "An apple" is a noun phrase and "that my mother bought yesterday" is a complementiser phrase. Are the noun phrase––"An apple"––and the complementiser phrase––"that my mother bought yesterday"––immediately dominated by the noun phrase––"An apple that my mother bought yesterday"?

Thank you so much

  • If in your example "an apple" were really a NP, then it could be antecedent of "it", but *"it that my mother bought".
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 7 '18 at 17:47
  • @GregLee Surely it can be? "What is it that my mother bought?"
    – Draconis
    Oct 8 '18 at 15:41
  • @Draconis, In your example "it that my mother bought" are not two parts of a single construction. Instead, the "it" is part of a cleft sentence: "My mother bought butter" => "It is butter that my mother bought" with the NP in the position of "butter" questioned. The "it" is not anaphoric.
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 8 '18 at 16:01
  • The problem here is that the clause that my mother bought is not a complement clause. It's a restrictive relative clause modifying an apple. Misidentifying it as a complement because it starts with that is a common enough mistake; but this is clearly a relative because of the missing anaphor of an apple in the clause.
    – jlawler
    Oct 13 '18 at 21:30

English has two distinct meanings of "that", with different syntax. So for syntactic purposes I find it easiest to think of them as coincidental homophones (they just happen to look like each other by random chance), even though that's not historically true.

The first version, as you mention, is a complementizer. It takes a full sentence (a TP or an IP or an S or something else depending on your theory), and turns it into a complement for a verb, as in "I know that penguins are good".

simple example of a tree with "that" complementizer

The second version is a pronoun, as in "I see that".

simple example of a tree with "that" pronoun

The way a sentence like yours is generally analyzed, it has an "invisible complementizer" (shown with ∅ here), and the relative pronoun starts out exactly where you'd expect a normal pronoun to go:

simple example of a tree pre-movement

Then "that" moves up to a position right under the CP:

simple example of a tree post-movement

This movement is very similar to what's seen in WH-questions ("I wonder which apple my mother bought"), so the two are usually analyzed as being different forms of the same phenomenon. If you want to learn more, look into the term "WH-movement".

  • But where is ___ ( 'gap') after "bought" to represent the direct object? It can't be "that", because "that" is a subordinator not a relative pronoun.
    – BillJ
    Oct 2 '18 at 6:42
  • 1
    @BillJ The point is that in this sentence, that is indeed a relative pronoun and not a subordinator. The gap is what Draconis named t ("trace") - namely the direct object position that was previously occupied by the pronoun "that", which now serves as a (relative) pronoun in C position.
    – lemontree
    Oct 3 '18 at 9:44
  • @lemontree The claim is that "that" is not a relative pronoun but a subordinator functioning simply as a marker (theres planty of evidence to support this). I think it's better to represent the missing relative word with a gap in prenuclear position which is co-indexed to a further gap in object position in the nucleus clause.
    – BillJ
    Oct 3 '18 at 10:17
  • Hmmm. They aren't homophones, though. The determinative/pronoun has a full STRAP vowel in all situations. The subordinator can be, and nearly always is, realised with a schwa. May 20 '19 at 15:51

Note: Originally, OP's question was "Does NP -> NP CP exist? Can a noun phrase immediately dominate both another noun phrase and a complementiser phrase?" The following consitutes an answer to this question, so I'll leave it here even after the question having been edited.

What about something like the claim that the accusations were wrong?
Here, that is a complementizer that takes a full sentence, and not just a relative pronoun that enters the C position through wh movement, as in your apples example.

Following Draconis' syntax style: enter image description here

  • "That" is a subordinator, not a relative pronoun.
    – BillJ
    Oct 3 '18 at 9:37
  • @BillJ Which "what" are you taling about?
    – lemontree
    Oct 3 '18 at 9:40
  • @BillJ: Lemon was referring to the 'that' in the apple sentence, not the apple in this sentence. Oct 3 '18 at 16:24
  • The OP is about a relative pronoun phrase.
    – amI
    Oct 8 '18 at 0:29
  • @aml Originally, the question was "Does NP -> NP CP exist? Can a noun phrase immediately dominate both another noun phrase and a complementiser phrase? ". My example is a direct answer to this question. This is apparently no longer the case now that the title has been edited. I'll insert a hint in my post accordingly.
    – lemontree
    Oct 8 '18 at 11:51

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