Linguistic Analysis

A research journal devoted to the publication of high quality articles in formal phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. In continuous publication since 1976. ISSN: 0098-9053


wh-in situ in Exclamatives? A Case Study of French

This paper presents an analysis of the observation that (optional) wh-in situ occurs in root wh-interrogatives, but not in root wh-exclamatives in French. It is argued that the optionality of wh-in situ is linked to information-seeking interrogatives in French; hence the impossibility of wh-in situ in exclamatives and some rhetorical questions. The distribution of multiple wh-constituents is also included in this study, because in French, main sentences with multiple wh-elements presuppose at least one wh-in situ. I (partially) follow Lambrecht’s (1996) and Honcoop’s (1998) pragmatic analysis of the wh-in situ constraint which may be paraphrased as no focus in a presupposed clause. I assume that wh-exclamatives are linked to the focus-background partition, which prevents any wh-constituent from being embedded in a background clause. However, I argue that the behaviour of wh-exclamatives cannot be explained on a purely pragmatic basis. This hypothesis is corroborated by cross-linguistic data, which show that a “real” wh-in situ language, like Japanese, allows the possibility of one or more wh-constituents to occur in exclamatives (Ono 2004). I intend to expand upon the seemingly pragmatic explanation within Chomsky’s (2000, 2001) Phase and Agree approach. Finite clauses and complements that are interpreted as highly presuppositional have a phase status in French (but seemingly not in Japanese), thereby ruling out an operator-variable dependency.