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Antecedent alternatives to ‘reason’ in why-relative clauses: corpus evidence
Article from Proceeding
CONEST 12: The Twelfth Conference on English Studies, Jakarta, Unika Atma Jaya
406 CES 12
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Relative clauses feature in almost every English syllabus and constitute an integral part of English grammar. Their structures seem to have been examined down to the finest detail by grammarians and it is true that a number of prototypes of relative clauses have been well explored. However, there still exists, at least, one type of relative clause that remains relative ly unexplored, namely why-relative clause. The why-relative clauses may be rarely used, but for the sake of comprehensiveness of description of English grammar they must be thoroughly accounted for. Grammar books have shown that this relativizer is (or can be) rightly preceded by one noun, viz. reason. It is beyond dispute that the noun reason paves the way for why-relative clauses to occur. What most, if not all, grammarians appear to have missed in their analyses is that reason is not the only noun capable of taking why-relative clauses. This has become evident through an investigation into a 520 million word general corpus of English, the Corpus of Contemporary American English. The enquiry has found that some other nouns are also used with why-relative clauses, such as argument, cause, excuse, explanation, justification, and rationale. These findings indicate a lack of exhaustiveness in the information provided so far about the possible antecedents of why-relative clauses, rendering untenable the claim that reason is the sole antecedent introducing the why-relative clause. The aforementioned nouns preceding why-relative clauses found in the corpus may be seen as viable alternatives to reason. Learners or users of English may choose a subtly nuanced alternative antecedent that best suits their purposes.
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