Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 205–256 | Cite as

Wolof wh-movement at the syntax-morphology interface

  • Martina Martinović


This paper is concerned with the seemingly complex morphosyntax of \(\mathrm{A}'\)-movement in the Niger-Congo language Wolof. Wolof exhibits three different \(\mathrm{A}'\)-extraction effects: morphological marking of the cyclicity of movement, agreement in class between the wh-complementizer and the extracted phrase, and a subject/non-subject asymmetry, akin to the that-trace effect. The effects seem to surface in two seemingly different structural configurations, with their distribution not straightforwardly explainable as being of semantic of information-structural provenance. The analysis developed here advocates a unified syntax for all \(\mathrm{A}'\)-structures in Wolof, and aims to show that their surface morpho-syntactic properties can be understood as resulting from the general mechanisms underlying the operation Agree, such as the presence of particular uninterpretable features and their location, and the interaction of agreement with post-syntactic processes, specifically an OCP-type effect, akin to the Doubly-Filled-COMP Filter, resulting in post-syntactic impoverishment and complementizer allomorphy. This paper offers not only a unified analysis of \(\mathrm{A}'\)-extraction effects and maintains a unified syntax of \(\mathrm{A}'\)-extraction in Wolof, but crucially offers a principled account for the distribution of different shapes of the CP-layer in different instances of \(\mathrm{A}'\)-movement in Wolof.


Wh-movement Complementizer agreement Complementizer allomorphy The that-trace effect Subject/non-subject asymmetries Morphological Optimality Contour Principle Doubly-Filled-Comp-Filter Dissimilation Impoverishment Obliteration Feature co-occurrence Wolof 



This project started as a qualifying paper and evolved into a part of my dissertation, significantly influencing the overall direction of my research. Biggest thanks are due to Karlos Arregi for numerous discussions of various parts of this research and thorough comments on many versions of this paper. Thanks to Jason Merchant and David Pesetsky for their most helpful input, and especially to Julie Anne Legate and four anonymous NLLT reviewers for their very constructive criticism. I also wish to thank the audiences at NELS 42, LSA 86 and LSA 88, the students and faculty at the Linguistics Department at University of Potsdam and University of Göttingen, where various parts of this research were presented, for their thoughtful comments. Finally, I thank my many Wolof native speaker consultants, especially Aliou Sougou and Jean-Léopold Diouf, without whom none of this would be possible. This research was funded by the University of Chicago Linguistic Department’s Rella Cohn Fund for Graduate Research in Linguistics, the France Chicago Center François Furet Travel Grant and the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (BCS-1349105). All errors are my own.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universität LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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