The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square Special Session 3/23 - Hadas Kotek

This special session of Syntax Square on Friday will be a practice talk for GLOW.

Speaker: Hadas Kotek
Title: WH-fronting in a two-probe system
Date/Time: Friday, Mar 23, 3:30-4:30p
Location: 32-D831
(Note unusual time and location)

The study of wh-movement has distinguished among several types of wh-fronting languages that permit distinct patterns of overt and covert movement, instantiated for example by the Slavic languages, English and German. This talk extends the cross-linguistic typology of multiple questions by arguing that Hebrew instantiates a new kind of wh-fronting language, unlike any that are presently discussed in the literature. I will show that Hebrew distinguishes between two kinds of interrogative phrases: those that are headed by a wh-word (wh-headed phrases: what, who, [DP which X], where, how …) and those that contain a wh-word but are headed by some other element (wh-containing phrases: [NP N of wh], [PP P wh]). We observe the special status of wh-headed phrases when one occurs structurally lower in a question than a wh-containing phrase. In that case, the wh-headed phrase can be targeted by an Agree/Attract operation that ignores the presence of the c-commanding wh-containing phrase.

I develop an account of the sensitivity of interrogative probing operations to the head of the interrogative phrase within Q-particle theory. I proposes that the Hebrew Q has an EPP feature which can trigger head-movement of wh to Q and that a wh-probe exists alongside the more familiar Q-probe, and shows how these two modifications to the theory can account for the intricate data that will be presented in the talk. The emerging picture is one in which interrogative probing does not occur wholesale but rather can be sensitive to particular interrogative features on potential goals.