Questions with declarative syntax tell us what about selection?
Jonathan Bobaljik, Susi Wurmbrand
October 2014

One of the many enduring themes of Chomsky's (1965) Aspects is the question of selection (broadly construed) and the distinction among syntactic and semantic properties (features) of linguistic expressions. In this brief contribution, we aim to reaffirm the role that syntactic selection plays in the domain of clausal embedding; that is, where verbs select for a complement of a particular syntactic type and a semantically (or pragmatically) equivalent utterance is sharply ungrammatical. Our specific focus is to synthesize a body of literature on the phenomenon of ‘optional’ (non-echo) wh-in-situ in wh-movement languages, arguing ultimately that syntactically, the phenomenon as such may not exist. What appears to be wh-in-situ in these languages may carry interrogative force as a speech act, but from a syntactic perspective is a declarative clause with a wh-expression in focus—a question with declarative syntax. The key evidence for this claim comes from selection/subcategorization, specifically the generalization that if a language has wh-movement (to Spec,CP), then wh-movement is obligatory in indirect (i.e., selected) questions. The relevant facts have been noted for individual languages, including English, but we offer here a meta-study, contending that this generalization holds systematically across all languages we have been able to examine, despite a wealth of variation along other dimensions. We discuss consequences of this generalization for accounts of wh-in-situ in questions with declarative syntax, and wh-movement in general, and provide a feature based analysis to derive these questions.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/002266
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To appear in Ángel J. Gallego & Dennis Ott (eds.). 50 Years Later: Reflections on Chomsky’s Aspects. MITWPL
keywords: aspects, syntax, wh-in-situ, selection, agree, syntax
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