Austronesian verb-initial languages and wh-question strategies

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11049-009-9078-0

Cite this article as:
Potsdam, E. Nat Lang Linguist Theory (2009) 27: 737. doi:10.1007/s11049-009-9078-0


This paper presents a research agenda for investigating possible implicational universals connecting the syntactic strategy that a verb-initial language uses to derive verb-initial word order (verb raising, VP raising, verb lowering, right hand subjects, etc.) and its strategy for forming wh-questions (wh-in-situ, clefting, wh-fronting, etc.). The Austronesian language family, with its over 1000 members, is taken as a starting point for the investigation because of its abundance of verb-initial languages. The existing analyses of Austronesian languages support one potential universal in this domain: Languages that derive verb-initial word order by VP raising do not have wh-movement. Possible theoretical explanations for this pattern are evaluated. The paper then considers Fijian, a potential counterexample. Further analysis suggests that Fijian is unlikely to be a problem, however, it highlights a main claim of the paper: Careful, in-depth analyses are required to yield robust results in such a typological study.


Verb initial Wh-questions Typology Austronesian Fijian 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LinguisticsUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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