The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Colloquium 12/5 - Leston Buell

Speaker: Leston Buell (Leiden University Centre for Linguistics)
Title: Purpose WHY in vP, reason WHY in CP: evidence from Zulu

Time: Friday, December 5th, 2008, 3:30pm
Place: Room 32-141

There are two postverbal strategies for asking ‘why’ in Zulu. The first is the purpose applicative question, which is akin to English what for questions. This is in a sense a bipartite strategy, exhibiting a wh enclitic (-ni ‘what’) and a applicative verbal affix that licenses it. The second strategy uses the word ngani ‘why’ and is used only to question the reason of a negative clause. While in both cases the wh element is postverbal, it is argued to be in very different syntactic positions in the two cases. The enclitic -ni ‘what’ of the purpose applicative is shown to be below the inflectional domain, while ngani of a reason question is in the complementiser domain.

In these questions, several types of evidence show that purpose WHY is below the inflectional domain in Zulu, including the distribution of conjoint and disjoint verb forms and the point of attachment of the applicative morpheme. Furthermore, purpose questions are shown to exhibit transparency effects, in the sense that within a “restructuring domain”, both parts of this question (the particle -ni ‘what’ and the applicative verbal affix that licenses it) attach to the lower verb but are interpreted on the upper verb. Beginning with Rizzi’s (1999) analysis of Italian, it has been claimed for a growing number of languages that, unlike other wh phrases, reason WHY is introduced in the complementiser field rather than moving there from a position below the inflectional domain. In all of the languages for which such an analysis has been proposed, the ‘why’ word appears in some left-peripheral or otherwise preverbal position. Zulu ngani ‘why’ is argued to need a similar analysis, even though it appears in postverbal position. Arguments for the analysis are made on the basis of the distribution of conjoint and disjoint verb forms, interactions between WHY and negation, the absence of transparency effects, and previous analyses of Zulu’s elocutionary force particles yini and na. Specifically, ngani is argued to be an Int0 head (a head in the complementiser domain), around which the IP must move. It is suggested that reason WHY (as opposed to purpose WHY) is universally introduced above negation.