The distribution of finite and participial postmodifiers in fiction and academic prose

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This paper aims at pointing out certain tendencies in the distribution of two postmodifying constructions - finite relative clauses and nonfinite participial clauses. These two forms are generally described as functionally equivalent (Quirk et al. 1985: 1243-1244, CGEL henceforth; or Dušková et al. 1994: 581, MSA henceforth), but the nature of their equivalence has not been explicitly exploited, beyond references to the systematic constraints ensuing from the limited morphological potential of the participial clauses. However, there is an observable variation among registers in terms of the postmodifying forms employed (Biber et al., 1999).
The description of the distribution of the two postmodifiers is not a goal in itself, but it is a necessary intermediate step to understanding the postulated equivalence and the functions of the forms in question.
Prescriptive linguistics, for example, postulates the rule ‘avoid w/wz-deletions’ warning against the use of the reduced -ing and -ed forms, based on the supposed difficult processing of unexpressed syntactic relations (e.g. Lutz, 2003). On the other hand, as argued by Green (1996: 106-109), it is a mistaken assumption to believe that an increase in the number of explicit markers of interclausal semantic relations will by default make a text more coherent and easier to understand.
This paper hopes to relate the distribution of the two constructions in a particular type of text to some other means it employs to fulfil its needs, demonstrating that certain text-type characteristics can be correlated with the distribution of postmodifying constructions.


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