Why *"if or not" but ✓"whether or not"
Danfeng Wu
June 2020

This squib presents a puzzle about a contrast between "whether" and "if" in English, manifested in the contrast between the grammaticality of "I don't know whether or not John will arrive" and the ungrammaticality of "I don't know if or not John will arrive". I argue that this contrast can be explained if we assume that "whether" can pied-pipe, but "if" cannot. Strikingly, once we eliminate the pied-piping parse for "whether", it behaves like "if". Then I examine Polish and Bengali, and show that not only does the same pattern exist in these languages, but my analysis holds as well.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004603
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Submitted
keywords: whether, if, or, disjunction, coordination, pied-piping, topicalization, syntax, bengali, polish, syntax
previous versions: v2 [May 2019]
v1 [May 2019]
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