This paper provides an analysis of two relative clause constructions in the Gabonese Bantu language Orungu that are in complementary distribution. The choice between them is determined by the target of relativisation in a typologically interesting way, in that it involves the combination of the criteria of the syntactic relation, thematic role and referential properties of the target. The construction that targets most types of objects is formally nearly identical to relative clauses that target the subject of a passive clause and we argue that it originates in the syntactic reanalysis of such subject relatives. That is, relative clauses that targeted the subject of a passive clause have been reanalysed as relative clauses that target the object of an active clause. This shows a rare type of change in relative clause constructions, which is unique in Bantu, but grounded in the universal tendencies captured by the accessibility hierarchy.
adamawa agreement applicative suffix areal linguistics augment bantu bena-yungur canonical approach comparative Bantu comparative concepts dictionary external possession grammar sketch historical syntax methodology noun classes noun phrase parametric approach possession proper names prosody prototypicality reconstruction reductionist approaches relative clauses scenario-based approach syntax tone word order éton