The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 11/27 - Kenyon Branan & Abdul-Razak Sulemana (MIT)

Speakers: Kenyon Branan & Abdul-Razak Sulemana (MIT)
Title: Against strength and weakness: Contiguity in Bùlì
Time/date: Monday, November 28, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

Optionality in Ā-movement has been modeled as the optional presence of a strong feature on C, requiring the wh-phrase it Agrees with to move to its specifier. Recent work [Richards (2016)] models optionality in Ā-movement as true optionality, so long as the choice of movement or not satisfies a condition on prosodic representations, called Contiguity. In this talk, I present novel data from Buli, a Gur language spoken primarily in Ghana, that provides a strong argument for the latter view of optionality. In Buli, wh-phrases may remain in-situ, so long as they are not separated from end of the sentence by a prosodic boundary of any sort. This restriction on wh-in-situ is explained straightforwardly given the Contiguity-theoretic approach, but would require the introduction of an additional constraint on prosodic representations under the “optional feature” approach.