A relative clause is a clause that is used to narrow the reference of a referential phrase and in which the referent of the phrase plays a semantic role. It is introduced by a relative pronoun and which modifies its NP antecedent.
The term relative goes back to the 16th century in English, but at the time in connection with relative pronouns.
(i) The Ferrari [which I can't afford e]
In this example the Ferrari is the antecedent of the relative clause which I can't afford e, and which is the relative pronoun. The relative clause always contains a gap - e - which is the trace of the relative pronoun. Movement of the relative pronoun is usually treated on a par with wh-movement.
- Smits, R.J.C. 1989. The relative and cleft constructions of the Germanic and Romance languages, doct. diss. KUB, Tilburg, Dordrecht: Foris, 1988.
- German Relativsatz