A tenet of any version of phrase structure theory is that a lexical item can transmit its label when merged with another category. We assume that if it is internally merged, a lexical item can turn a clause into a nominal phrase. If the relabeling lexical item is a wh-word, a free relative results; if it is an N, a full relative results; if it is a non-wh D, a pseudorelative results. It follows that the head of a relative construction cannot be more complex than a lexical item. We show massive evidence that when it is otherwise (e.g., the book about Obama that you bought), the modifier is late-merged after the noun has moved and relabeled the structure.

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Author notes

This article is the second publication resulting from the research project on labeling and its consequences for the theory of grammar that the two authors have been pursuing since 2007 (the first publication is Cecchetto and Donati 2010). Though the order of the authors' names differs in the two articles, the authors contributed equally to both.

We presented the ideas discussed here at GLOW Asia VIII (Beijing, 2010); at the XX Colloquium on Generative Grammar (Barcelona, 2010); at the Workshop on Minimalist Approaches to Syntactic Locality (Budapest, 2009); at the XVIII Colloquium on Generative Grammar (Lisbon, 2008); at the 38th Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (Ottawa, 2007); and at research seminars at Harvard University and at the University of Siena. We thank the audiences at these events for their comments. Special thanks to Adriana Belletti, Chiara Branchini, Gennaro Chierchia, Luigi Rizzi, Adam Szczegielniak, Sandro Zucchi, and three anonymous LI reviewers for specific comments that led us to sharpen our ideas. What still does not work is our fault.