Romance restrictive relative clauses show considerable variation as to the 'relative pronouns' used in actual speech. Besides the complex normative systems of French, Italian and Spanish, "substandard" varieties of these languages present constructions based on relative particles with or without resumptive pronouns. After a short description and typological presentation of relative clauses in general and in the three Romance languages in question, both in standard and "substandard" varieties, we will discuss traditional and variationist descriptions of "substandard" relative clauses. They usually identify (at least) two different systems, one typologically rather inconsistent system of relative elements in the standard and one consistent system of particle-based "substandard" relative clauses, which would amount to say that Romance speakers use two different systems, maybe according to extralinguistic factors like education or situation. Empirical data show, however, that the ascription of non-normative relative constructions to "substandard" varieties in Romance fail to describe in a realistic way what is going on in actual usage: the general "degree of accessibility" of the antecedent and the internal syntactic complexity of the relative clause provoke in some rare cases the cross-linguistically well motivated and widespread use of relative particles with or without resumptive pronouns rather than (standard) relative pronouns. This variation is most probably due to medial factors and occurs almost exclusively in phonic, i.e. not planned and revisable communication.