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Syntax of Why-in-situ: Merge Into [SPEC,CP] in the Overt Syntax

Abstract

This paper proposes that ‘why’ in wh-in-situ languages (Korean, Japanese, and Chinese) is directly merged into [Spec,CP] of the clause it modifies. This proposal not only captures long-standing issues regarding the peculiarity of ‘why’, as opposed to other wh-phrases, but also accounts for previously unnoticed asymmetries among why-constructions. In particular, I argue that due to its initial merge position, ‘why’ in an interrogative clause is licensed with external merge while ‘why’ in a declarative clause must undergo LF-movement. This argument is supported by the non-uniform behavior of ‘why’ with respect to the Intervention Effect in Korean and Japanese (cf. Beck and Kim 1997) and is further confirmed by the question-marker drop phenomenon in Japanese. Under this proposal, a puzzling divergence between Chinese and Korean/Japanese in why-constructions is reduced to the fact that Chinese disallows A′-scrambling. The proposal also captures a syntactic parallelism between ‘why’ in wh-in-situ languages and ‘why’ in wh-fronting languages, like Italian and Irish. Among the theoretical consequences of this paper is a demonstration that a subject may scramble (cf. Saito 1985) and that string-vacuous scrambling is responsible for judgment variations concerning the Intervention Effect.

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Author information

Correspondence to Heejeong Ko.

Additional information

I thank Noam Chomsky, Sabine Iatridou, Shigeru Miyagawa, Norvin Richards, Ken Wexler, and very specially Danny Fox and David Pesetsky for their numerous helpful comments and extensive discussion on this paper. At various stages, this paper has also benefited from questions and comments from Joseph Aoun, Rajesh Bhatt, Cedric Boeckx, Sylvain Bromberger, Chris Collins, Paul Hagstrom, Irene Heim, James Huang, Anoop Mahajan, Luigi Rizzi, Wei-tien Dylan Tsai, John Whitman, Edwin Williams, and the audiences at the Ling-Lunch at MIT, Workshop on Wh-Movement at Utrecht/Leiden, the 77th LSA annual meeting, WAFL-1, and JKL-13. I am deeply grateful to Marcel den Dikken and two anonymous reviewers of NLLT for their detailed comments, which greatly improved the content and the presentation of the paper. I wish to thank my informants: for Korean data, Joon Yong Ahn, Yeun-Jin Jung, Youngok Ko, Youngjoo Lee, Ju-Eun Lee; for Japanese data, Sachiko Kato, Masa Kuno, Nanako Machida, Hideki Maki, Shigeru Miyagawa, Shoichi Takahashi; for Chinese data, Ressy Ai, Feng-Fan Hsieh, Zhiqiang Li, Hooi Ling Soh. My gratitude also goes to Philip Monahan for his generous help in proofreading. Of course, all remaining errors in the paper are mine.

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Ko, H. Syntax of Why-in-situ: Merge Into [SPEC,CP] in the Overt Syntax. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 23, 867–916 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-004-5923-3

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Keywords

  • Intervention Effect
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Theoretical Consequence
  • Interrogative Clause
  • Declarative Clause