Wicked which: The linking relative in Australian English

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This paper examines the linking relative (or connective which) in the spontaneous conversation of Australian English. Using a combination of survey and corpus data, two distinct discourse functions are identified: resumptive topic marker and focus. Survey data from 170 linguistics students at an Australian university indicate a strong preference for the resumptive topic marker function: I argue that this is due to the parallel between discourse function and the structure of the standard relative clause. UWA corpus data suggest that the connective which is used solely to create textual cohesion in Australian English, while anecdotal examples from American English podcasts, blogs and the animated TV show Archer hint at the possibility of this becoming an expressive resource for speakers in the future. Thus it appears the Australian English use of the connective which is situated on the textual level of Traugott’s cline: propositional > textual > expressive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-386
Number of pages31
JournalAustralian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


  • Australian English
  • Connective which
  • Conversation
  • Linking Relative
  • Relative Clause

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