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LINGUIST List 19.2587

Fri Aug 22 2008

Diss: Syntax: Cheung: 'Wh-Fronting in Chinese'

Editor for this issue: Evelyn Richter <evelynlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Candice Chi-Hang Cheung, Wh-Fronting in Chinese

Message 1: Wh-Fronting in Chinese
Date: 22-Aug-2008
From: Candice Chi-Hang Cheung <candicecchgmail.com>
Subject: Wh-Fronting in Chinese
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Institution: University of Southern California
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Candice Chi-Hang Cheung

Dissertation Title: Wh-Fronting in Chinese

Linguistic Field(s): Syntax

Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)

Dissertation Director:
Jean-Roger Vergnaud
Richard Larson
Mario Saltarelli
Andrew Simpson

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation is a theoretical investigation of wh-fronting phenomena
in Mandarin couched in the Principles-and-Parameters (P&P) framework, and
its recent developments within the Minimalist Program. Specifically, two
constructions involving wh-fronting are investigated, including preposed
wh-questions, and the parasitic gap (PG) construction. Close examination of
their distributional patterns, interpretive, and syntactic properties
reveals that they are best-analyzed as a type of contrastive focus
construction, refuting the prevalent view that wh-fronting should be
treated as an instance of 'wh-topicalization' with the pre-clausal
wh-phrase either base-generated or moved to SPEC-Top (Xu & Langendoen 1985,
Tang 1988, Li 1996, Wu 1999, Kuong 2006, Pan 2006, inter alia). Such a
proposal is further supported by the distinctive morphological, syntactic,
and semantic properties of topics and contrastive foci in the language. A
desirable consequence of this proposal is that wh-fronting in Mandarin need
not be viewed as a language-specific phenomenon nor should its coexistence
with in-situ wh-questions be surprising, since the coexistence of
contrastive focus constructions, such as clefted questions, and simple
wh-questions, is very common crosslinguistically (Kiss 1998).

With respect to the syntax of wh-fronting, a specific question addressed in
this dissertation is whether overt movement obligatorily applies to the
wh-phrase bearing contrastive focus in Mandarin. Two different approaches
have been proposed for it-clefts in English: the null operator movement and
overt movement analyses advanced by Chomsky (1977) (see also Kiss 1998). It
is argued that both strategies are independently motivated to accommodate
the fact that wh-arguments in preposed wh-questions may undergo movement or
employ operator movement, depending on the availability of an intrusive
pronoun. Additionally, it proposes that PP wh-phrases and the wh-adverbial
weishenme 'why' uniformly undergo overt movement to SPEC-Foc in preposed
wh-questions. A typology of contrastive focus constructions is advanced
accordingly, advocating that overt movement and null operator movement
should be licensing mechanisms available to contrastive focus constructions
in Universal Grammar (UG). The typology put forth in this dissertation also
gains support from the PG construction, which crucially relies on overt
movement to derive the licensing gap, and null operator movement to derive
the parasitic gap.

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