Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 539–592 | Cite as

Ellipsis in split questions

  • Karlos ArregiEmail author


Split questions such as What tree did John plant, an oak? contain a wh-question part and a tag. Drawing on Spanish, Basque and English data, this article argues that these two parts of a split question are independent clauses. The tag is in fact an elliptical non-wh-question, where ellipsis is licensed in the same way as in other sentence fragments. I provide detailed argumentation that the tag involves movement of a correlate of the wh-phrase, followed by ellipsis of the remnant, thus contributing to the growing body of evidence that sentence fragments (sluicing, fragment answers, etc.) are syntactically full clauses. The syntax proposed provides a simple account of the intonation patterns found in split questions and of their semantics. Furthermore, it is argued that the only existing alternative analysis of split questions cannot account for many of the properties of this construction.


Split questions Ellipsis Fragments Islands Pied-piping 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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