LINGUIST List 10.10

Tue Jan 5 1999

Sum: Chinese wh- wh- sentences

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <>


  1. ressy, "Parameter-within-Parameter"; Sum of wh- wh- Chinese Sentences

Message 1: "Parameter-within-Parameter"; Sum of wh- wh- Chinese Sentences

Date: 5 Jan 1999 17:03:41 -0000
From: ressy <>
Subject: "Parameter-within-Parameter"; Sum of wh- wh- Chinese Sentences

Dear Linguists,

Many thanks to Roumyana Izvorski, Binli Wen, David Pesetsky, Terri
Griffith, Georgia Green, Victor Pekar, Karuvannur P. Mohanan, Michal
Starke, Christopher Palmer, LB Chen, Mike Maxwell and many
others. Thank you for your kind attention and insightful help. With
your encouragement, I am sending the summary of my recent research to
you all who are also interested in this topic.

My focus is on Chinese wh-wh- sentences. A example of these
sentences can be (1)

(1) Ni Zuo Shenme, Wo Chi Shenme.
You cook what I eat what.
I eat whatever you have cooked.

The main point of this kind of sentence is that it has two
wh-words. Cheng and Huang(1994) treat this a kind of donkey sentences
while Wen(1996) argues that this is a kind of free
relatives. Personally, I am in favor of Wens argument. But I am
especially interested in the interpretation of the motivation for the
configuration of these sentences. This leads me to the study of the
morphological structure of the wh-words. I would like to attribute the
configuration and derivation of these sentences to the features
possessed by the wh-words(operators). Those features will be
percolated into C or whatever which will eventually construct the
whole sentences. So far the formal features identified can be [+/-wh],
[+/-pred]; the logic semantic features are [THE x], [some x] and
[x-R<a>], a can be PERSON or THING etc. But how can we organize all
these features? I propose that the organization is a kind of
hierarchy, which can be mapped into the syntactic structure of the
whole sentence. Researchers who have devoted into this area are
Chomsky(1991), Cheng(1991), Ning(1993), Wen(1996) and Tsai(1994),
etc. My contribution is not to advocate the hierarchy but to propose a
Parameter-within-Parameter structure of the organization of the
features which are sometimes parameters themselves......

The ultimate goal is that I want to propose that this P-within-P is
equivalent to the so-called LAD. To propose that we formally separate
LAD from UG. UG is the initial state of our language faculty. In that
case, Grammar is a kind of formal description of the primitive state
of our mind of the linguistic part. But it is the LAD which will
guarantee the ultimate acquisition of a particular language, which
means that LAD is the language processor, here referring to the
P-within-P(a device now) configuration. This will be developed fully
in the critical period of a child.

Open to all comments and suggestions.... 

Wish you all have a nice new year!

Ressy Ai

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