The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 9/5 - Tanya Bondarenko (Harvard)

Speaker: Tanya Bondarenko (Harvard)
Title: Scope-marking in Georgian, and the impossibility of long-distance movement
Time: Tuesday, September 5th, 1pm – 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: In this work in progress, I present some observations about long-distance dependencies in Georgian. Georgian is a language that lacks long-distance wh-movement, (1): wh words cannot be extracted across a finite clause boundary. To express the meaning of a long-distance question, a construction with wh scope marking is used, (2), where a wh-expression in the embedded clause co-occurs with the wh-word ra “what” in the matrix clause.

(1) ​ Long-distance wh extraction *ra-s1       pikrobs  mariami,       [rom     t1  č’ams      šota]? what-ACC thinks  Mariam.NOM   COMP     is.eating    Shota.NOM ‘What does Mariam think that Shota is eating?’

(2) ​ Wh scope marking ra-s       pikrobs  mariami,       [rom     ra-s        č’ams    šota]? what-ACC thinks  Mariam.NOM   COMP  what-ACC  is.eating  Shota.NOM ‘What does Mariam think that Shota is eating?’

In this talk I argue that the construction in (2) does not involve a long-distance dependency: the two wh-expressions are not part of the same movement chain. I propose that a version of the indirect dependency approach (Dayal 1994) can account for the properties of wh scope marking in Georgian: the two wh-words undergo movement in each of their respective clauses to a position between VoiceP and TP (Borise 2023), and then the embedded CP is adjoined to the matrix one.

If this analysis is on the right track, it suggests that true long-distance dependencies are absent in Georgian, and the question is: why? At the end of the talk, I will offer some speculations I have, and solicit suggestions on where to look for the answer.