LEL 1
Syntax 8: Wh-movement
Outline
• Questioned constituents in English undergo movement to first
position of the sentence.
• This movement can lead to a constituent of an embedded
clause appearing in the main clause.
• But this movement is subject to restrictions that prohibit
moving a questioned constituent in certain syntactic contexts.
More questions
In the previous lecture, we looked at interrogative sentences of a
particular type: so-called yes/no-questions.
Has Deborah finished her work already?
Will Paul read the newspaper tonight?
In another type of interrogative, it’s a particular constituent of the
sentence that is questioned:
Who ate all the pies?
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
How did Harriet repair the bike?
What kind of books will they buy first?
In which restaurant do they serve the best black risotto?
Whose jumper did Jerry give to the charity shop?
Which charity shop did Jerry give your jumper to?
Wh-movement
A questioned constituent (a Wh-phrase) must move to the first
position of the clause in English. This wh-movement occurs
regardless of the grammatical function of the wh-phrase.
Susan has read War and Peace.
*Susan has read which book?
(except as an echo question)
Which book has Susan read?
Harry gave those tickets for the concert to his brother.
*Harry gave those tickets for the concert to whom?
To whom did Harry give those tickets for the concert?
Wh-movement (cont’d)
Wh-movement also takes place in embedded clauses.
I know [Jane read a book].
*I wonder [Jane read what].
I wonder [what Jane read].
I know [Harry gave those tickets for the concert to his brother].
*I wonder [Harry gave those tickets for the concert to whom].
I wonder [to whom Harry gave those tickets for the concert].
Wh-in-situ
Some languages do not have wh-movement. These wh-in-situ
languages leave wh-phrases in the same positions as
phrases that are not questioned.
Wo xiang-zhidao [Lisi mai-le sheme].
I wonder
Lisi bought what
I wonder what Lisi bought.
Chinese
Multiple questions
English is in fact partially a wh-in-situ language. In sentences in
which more than one constituent is questioned, only one
undergoes wh-movement.
Whoa ta has given what to whom?
*Whoa whatb ta has given tb to whom?
*Whoa whatb to whomc ta has given tb tc?
Superiority
In a multiple question in English, the wh-phrase that undergoes
wh-movement is the one that is closest to the first position of
the clause to begin with.
Whoa ta has given what to whom?
*Whata has who given ta to whom?
*To whoma has who given what ta?
This is known as Superiority.
Multiple wh-movement
In some languages all wh-phrases in a multiple question undergo whmovement:
Koja kogab ta vižda tb?
who whom sees
Who sees whom?
Bulgarian
*Koja tb vižda koga?
who sees whom
Kdoa kohob ta viděl tb?
who whom saw
Who saw whom?
*Kdoa ta viděl koho?
who
saw whom
Czech
The landing site of wh-movement
Recall the structure of clauses:
CP
C’
spec
C
IP
I’
spec
I
VP
V’
spec
V
compl
In which position does wh-movement put a wh-phrase?
The landing site of wh-movement
(cont’d)
In which position does wh-movement put a wh-phrase?
Answer: in spec-CP (the specifier position of the CP).
Empirical evidence for this assumption:
Ik weet niet [CP wata [C of [IP Jan [VP ta gelezen heeft]]]]
I know not
what if
John
read
has
I don’t know what John has read.
Dutch
The Doubly-filled COMP Filter
In English (and many other languages) you cannot have both a
wh-phrase in the spec-CP position and a complementizer in
the C-position within the same clause:
*I wonder [who if has written that book]
This is known as the Doubly-filled COMP Filter.
Long distance wh-movement
Recall: Wh-movement can move a Wh-phrase to the spec-CP
position of its own clause, whether this is the main clause or
an embedded clause.
Whoma did Marian tell ta [that Fiona had read Ulysses]?
Marian told Gerry [whata Fiona had read ta].
But: Wh-movement can also move a Wh-phrase out of an
embedded clause into the spec-CP position of a higher
clause!
Whata did Marian think [that Fiona would read ta]?
Whoa do you think [that Marian thought [this novel portrays ta]]?
Locality
So, Wh-movement can be non-local.
But not always:
*[Which opera]a do you wonder [CP why Verdi composed ta]?
Why the difference with
[Which opera]a do you think [CP that Verdi composed ta]?
The difference is that in the first sentence the spec-CP position
of the embedded clause is already occupied by another Whphrase. But why does that matter?
Successive cyclic movement
The difference is that in the first sentence the spec-CP position
of the embedded clause is already occupied by another Whphrase. But why does that matter?
Answer: Wh-phrases can only move out of the clause they
originate in if they move to the spec-CP position of that clause
first.
Apparent ‘long distance’ Wh-movement is really successive
cyclic movement, meaning it is movement from spec-CP of
one clause to spec-CP of a higher clause. (The CP is
sometimes called a ‘cycle’ in the analysis of a sentence).
[Which opera]a do you think [CP ta that Verdi composed ta]] ?
*[Which opera]a do you wonder [CP why Verdi composed ta]] ?
Successive cyclic movement
(cont’d)
Empirical evidence for successive cyclic movement comes from
languages in which the form of a complementizer in C depends on
whether spec-CP is filled or not.
In cases of apparent long-distance Wh-movement, the
complementizers of all clauses out of which the Wh-phrase is
extracted show the form that occurs if the spec-CP is filled.
That means Wh-movement must have left a trace in all these spec-CP
positions.
Cé
a dúradh
léithi
who
aL was-said with-her
Who was she told would buy it?
a cheannódh é?
aL would-buy it
Irish
Islands
Recap: A Wh-phrase cannot be extracted out of a clause that
begins with a Wh-phrase itself.
*[Which opera]a do you wonder [CP why Verdi composed ta]] ?
This is known as the Wh-island constraint.
An island is any constituent that you cannot move a Wh-phrase
out of.
*... Wh-phrasea ... [XP ... ta ...]
if XP is an island.
Besides Wh-islands, there are other types of islands as well.
Islands II: The Complex NP
Constraint
Noun Phrases can contain clauses.
He likes [NP the idea [CP that space travellers will reach Mars]]
You cannot move a Wh-phrase from such a clause to a position
outside the Noun Phrase. This is the Complex NP Constraint
on movement.
*[Which planet]a does he like [NP the idea [CP that space travellers
will reach ta]]?
Islands III: Subjects and adjuncts
You cannot move a Wh-phrase out of a subject or out of an
adjunct.
[What kind of books]a do [IP you [VP like [NP reading ta]]]?
(movement out of an object: ok)
*[What kind of books]a does [IP [ reading ta] [VP irritate you]]?
(movement out of a subject: bad)
*[What kind of books]a do [IP you [VP laugh [PP while reading ta]]]?
(movement out of an adjunct: bad)
The Coordinate Structure
Constraint
You cannot move a Wh-phrase out of one coordinated clause
while not moving anything out of the other. This is the
coordinate structure constraint.
* [What]a did [[IP Onegin give ta to Tatjana] and [IP Lensky a
bouquet to Olga]?
Curiously, so-called across-the-board movement is possible,
meaning there can be simultaneous movement out of both
coordinated clauses at once:
[What]a did [ [IP Onegin give ta to Tatjana] and [IP Lensky ta to
Olga]]?
The Left Branch Constraint
You can sometimes move the complement of an NP out of the
NP:
I approve of [NP [NP John’s] drinking [NP fruit juice]].
[What]a do you approve of [NP John’s drinking ta]?
But you cannot move the specifier. This is known as the leftbranch constraint on movement (since, in English, specifiers
are on a left branch in the tree structure, while complements
are on a right branch).
*[Whose]a do you approve of [NP ta drinking fruit juice]?
The that-trace Filter
Wh-movement is blocked in English when the trace of the moved
Wh-phrase is adjacent to a complementizer, such as that.
[What]a do you think [Harry has given ta to Barry]?
[What]a do you think [that Harry has given ta to Barry]?
[Who]a do you think [ta has given those tickets to Barry]?
*[Who]a do you think [that ta has given those tickets to Barry]?
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LEL 1