Relative clauses in Asante Twi
Relative clauses in Twi, a Niger-Congo language spoken in Ghana, have received little attention in the literature. I examine a corpus of naturally-occurring relative clauses, collected from a native speaker living in Houston, TX, to describe and analyze the tone, morphosyntax, and discourse characteristics of Twi relative clauses. This research also contributes to understanding of the cross-linguistic accessibility of noun phrases to the process of relativization. Based on spectrographic comparison within a set of minimal clauses, I determine that the phonemic form of the relativizer is āà. I examine the “optional” use of the relative clause enclitic no using a framework similar to Fox and Thompson’s (1990, 2007) studies on English relative clauses, concluding that the enclitic is only used in about half of cases and that the conditioning environment depends on a number of discourse factors including the topic-worthiness of the relativized argument and the distance between the head noun and the end of the relative clause. Finally, I examine noun phrase accessibility in Twi according to Keenan and Comrie (1977), finding that Twi relative clauses contradict Keenan and Comrie’s Accessibility Hierarchy Constraints in two respects: Twi resumptive pronouns are obligatory in the relativization of subjects, and the use of the resumptive pronoun strategy in Twi relativization covers a discontinuous portion of the Accessibility Hierarchy.
relative clauses; Asante Twi; language typology; language documentation and description