Licensing long-distance wh-in-situ in Malayalam

Article

Abstract

It is generally thought that wh-in-situ, like overt movement, is potentially unbounded. At the same time, certain languages have been argued to disallow long-distance wh-in-situ. This paper argues that even in languages that show apparent clause-boundedness effects, wh-in-situ, like wh-movement, can in principle cross an arbitrary number of clauses. Failure to license a wh-phrase across a clause boundary, when it occurs, can be shown to result from the interaction between wh-agreement and independent operations affecting embedded clauses. Evidence will be drawn primarily from Malayalam (Dravidian), which has been argued to disallow long-distance wh-in-situ with finite embedded clauses. I will show that the relevant factor for wh-licensing is not finiteness, but Ā-movement of embedded clauses, an operation that is common with finite CPs. The core of the problem lies in the fact that interrogative C is a generalized [Ā]-probe that can interact with a number of featurally more specific goals, including the [Ā]-features on the head of the moving clause. It will be shown that this approach can account for a number of facts about Malayalam wh-question formation, including selective transparency of certain finite clauses for long-distance wh-licensing.

Keywords

wh-in-situ Malayalam Clause-boundedness Long-distance question-formation Relativized probes 

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and PhilosophyMITCambridgeUSA

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