LINGUIST List 11.1305

Sat Jun 10 2000

Qs: Thetic/Categorical Sentences, Wh-Interrogatives

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  1. Johannes Reese, Argument for keeping apart thetic and categorial utterance
  2. Carsten Breul, Rizzi's account of wh-interrogatives

Message 1: Argument for keeping apart thetic and categorial utterance

Date: Fri, 09 Jun 2000 11:37:31 +0200
From: Johannes Reese <>
Subject: Argument for keeping apart thetic and categorial utterance

Hi, is there anyone who can give arguments for differentiating between
thetic and categorial sentences besides their word order in languages
other than English? The distinction has been so intuitively clear to me
that I never thought of it; but now I am teaching people who don't
"feel" the difference.


Johannes Reese
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Message 2: Rizzi's account of wh-interrogatives

Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 11:02:55 +0200
From: Carsten Breul <>
Subject: Rizzi's account of wh-interrogatives

Dear all

Rizzi (1996: 69) accounts for the ungrammaticality of 
sentences like 

(1) *Who Mary loves?

in the following way: In the underlying structure (2)

(2) Who C [Mary Infl loves t]

C and I are contra-indexed so that there is no chain 
relation between C, I and the inflected verb. Consequently, 
the [+wh] feature on _loves_ is not chain-connected to C, 
and the wh-criterion, which requires a spec-head relation 
between _who_ and a chain having [+wh], cannot be 

I assume that the existence of sentences parallel to (1) in 
colloquial French, .e.g. 

(3) Qui tu as rencontr�? (see Haegeman & Gu�ron 1999: 173)

does not provide a counter argument to Rizzi's suggestion. 
The principal line of reasoning could be that it is 
generally assumed that in French, in contrast to English, 
the inflected verb is in Infl before Spell-out/at S-
structure, and that the relation between the inflected verb 
in Infl and C is sufficiently local to satisfy the wh-

Rizzi's theory can be tested, it is empirically 
falsifiable. And precisely this is my question. 
Do you know of any languages which are like English (and
different from French) in that checking of the Infl
features happens after Spell-out/S-structure (i.e.
covertly), but which nevertheless have interrogatives with
an initial wh-phrase preceding a subject?

I.e.: 'Subject-Aux order' should be replaced by 'preceding
a subject'.

According to Barber (1993: 252), Indian English allows for 
sentences like

(4) Who you have come to see?

This may be a case in point if Indian English is like 
Standard British/American English with respect to the 
location of its inflected verbs at Spell-out/S-structure. 
Can anyone say more about this?


Barber, Charles. 1993. The English language: a historical 
introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Haegeman, Liliane & Gu�ron, Jacqueline. 1999. English 
Grammar: A Generative Perspective. Oxford & Malden (MA): 

Rizzi, Luigi. 1996. "Residual Verb Second and the Wh-
Criterion". In: Belletti, Adriana & Rizzi, Luigi (eds.). 
Parameters and Functional Heads: Essays in Comparative 
Syntax. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. 63-90.

Best regards,
Carsten Breul

Dr. Carsten Breul
Universitaet Duisburg
FB 3; Anglistik
47048 Duisburg
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