The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Lunch 10/8 - Athulya Aravind & Nick Longenbaugh

Note: Because these are practice talks for NELS, there will be two shorter talks this week.

Time: Thursday, October 8, 12:30-1:45pm
Place: 32-D461

Speaker: Athulya Aravind (MIT)
Title: Minimality and wh-licensing in Malayalam

Malayalam (Dravidian) is characterized as a wh-in-situ language, but wh-phrases in embedded clauses cannot take matrix scope (Madhavan 1987). This restriction is surprising in light of two facts (i) the wh-in-situ strategy is not clause-bounded in other wh-in-situ langages like Japanese and Korean, and (ii) Malayalam finite embedded clauses are otherwise transparent to syntactic and semantic operations. Similar restrictions in languages like Hindi, Bangla and Iraqi Arabic have led some researchers to conclude that wh-in-situ languages may vary parametrically in locality of wh-agreement (Ouhalla 1996, Simpson 2000). I will argue instead that the wh-in-situ strategy is uniformly non-clause-bounded. Failure to licensewh-phrases across a clause boundary can be shown to result from the interaction of wh-agreement and independent operations affecting embedded clauses. In Malayalam, wh-licensing is disrupted by A-bar movement of finite CPs, which creates a minimality violation. The features on the head of the embedded clause triggering clausal movement in the first place are sufficiently similar to wh-features that they block Agree between a higher C and an embedded wh-phrase. I show that in configurations in which such intervention is circumvented, e.g. in cleft questions, finite embedded clauses do not appear to be wh-scope islands.

Speaker: Nick Longenbaugh (MIT)
Title: Difficult movement