The following is a part of a Japanese university's entrance exam:


I was just reading an article on how the things that you do right before bed can have a big impact on your life.


That's so true. I've heard that it is such a great time of the day to actually start a daily routine because the day is winding down so you're not rushing around to get stuff done.


I've often tried to do that but have never been that successful at it, to tell you the truth. What I have personally found that really relaxes me though is doing some nighttime reading before I doze off.

Isn't "What I have personally found that really relaxes me" ungrammatical because it violates That-trace effect? My assumption is that "that" is a complementizer and "what" was moved from the subject position of the verb "relaxes". Or is this assummtion wrong?

  • 1
    It's tricky since there are two relative clauses involved. "What I have personally found that really relaxes me" is an NP as subject of the sentence where "what" can be paraphrased as "the thing which". It’s a fused relative construction where the antecedent ("thing") and the relativised element ("which") are 'fused' together into the single word "what", which is simultaneously head of the NP and subject of the embedded "relax" clause: "The thing [which I have personally found] __ [that really relaxes me] though is ...", where brackets surround the two relative clauses. Gap refers to "thing". – BillJ Jan 22 '17 at 16:41

The sentence is grammatical.

You appear to be parsing this with an underlying "I have found that X really relaxes me"; but in this case that introduces a relative clause modifying the (nominally employed) fused relative clause introduced by what. Parse it like this:

      I have found  X   that really relaxes me
       ←    ←      what
 What I have found      that really relaxes me is . . . 

You may paraphrase

The thing I have found which really relaxes me is . . .

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