On the Conservatism of Embedded Clauses

by Kenjiro Matsuda


Embedded clauses have been claimed to show syntactic conservatism against incoming linguistic change (Givon 1979, Hock 1986, Matsuda 1993). While all of the cases show the conservative nature of dependent clauses whether it is a past change or a change in progress, it is not clear what causes such a tendency. Three possible explanations --- syntactic (Emonds 1970, Ross 1973), speech stylistic, discourse-pragmatic (Givon 1979, Hooper and Thompson 1973), and processing-based (Townsend, Ottaviano and Bever 1979, Kluender and Kutas 1993) --- are proposed and closely examined. It is then suggested that the most reasonable scenario is that the conservatism is caused by both discourse-pragmatic and processing-based factors.

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