This paper advances a Minimalist structural account of subject contact relatives, such as I met a man _ can speak five languages, which are common to Belfast English and Ulster Scots but unacceptable in Standard British and North American Englishes. Previous accounts have treated these constructions as restrictive relatives (Doherty 1993) or topic-comment structures (Henry 1995). However, such approaches fail to describe the full range of syntactic and pragmatic restrictions affecting subject contact relatives; moreover, these studies have neglected dialectal differences in contact relative distribution. This paper treats subject contact relatives as TopicP constructions with null (or optionally resumptive)
subjects but overt topics. These constructions are noted to be restricted to syntactic predicates that serve a presentational function in the discourse. Further, syntactic and pragmatic variations in the composition of TopicP engender the observed dialectal differences in subject contact relative distribution across Belfast English, Ulster Scots, and standard English.
Williamson, S. (2016). Subject contact relatives: A cross-dialectal approach. Calgary Working Papers in Linguistics, 29(Fall), 41-60.