Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Wiley-Blackwell Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


Language Planning as a Sociolinguistic Experiment

By: Ernst Jahr

Provides richly detailed insight into the uniqueness of the Norwegian language development. Marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian nation following centuries of Danish rule

New from Cambridge University Press!


Acquiring Phonology: A Cross-Generational Case-Study

By Neil Smith

The study also highlights the constructs of current linguistic theory, arguing for distinctive features and the notion 'onset' and against some of the claims of Optimality Theory and Usage-based accounts.

New from Brill!


Language Production and Interpretation: Linguistics meets Cognition

By Henk Zeevat

The importance of Henk Zeevat's new monograph cannot be overstated. [...] I recommend it to anyone who combines interests in language, logic, and computation [...]. David Beaver, University of Texas at Austin

Summary Details

Query:   Typology of Multiple Questions
Author:  Ralf Vogel
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Syntax

Summary:   Dear colleagues,

A couple of weeks ago I posted a query to LINGUIST. I was afraid not to receive many answers, and I really didn't. Nevertheless, for those of you who are interested in the results, here is the summary. The original posting was the following:

I'm interested in the typology of the syntax of questions and would be very happy, if anybody could help me in answering the following question:

The syntax of interrogative clauses varies in several ways among languages. First, there are languages that have wh-movement, like Engish, and languages that don't have it,
like Korean (for ease of reading, I'm only giving glosses):

1 a English: What did John eat _?
b Korean: John what ate?

Second, many languages can have multiple wh-elements within one clause, but there are also some that cannot, Italian is supposed to be such a language. However, Italian is a
wh-movement language. I haven't found yet information about *wh-in-situ languages that cannot form multiple questions*, however:

2 a English: What did you do _ where?
b Italian: *What did you _ where?

3 a Korean: you what where did?
b ??????: *you what where did?

Does anybody know a language like 3b, i.e., a wh-in-situ language that has no multiple questions? I would also be very happy about hints to work dealing with this question. I
will post a summary of the answers to the list, if there are any interesting results. Thanks in advance.

- ----------

The most interesting answer came from Catherine Rudin:

>From Thu May 24 16:08:48 2001

''Omaha-Ponca (Siouan) may be a language of ''type 2b''. It has wh in situ (in fact, normally before the verb, much like your Korean example) but as far as I can tell it does not allow multiple wh. I am interested in multiple questions myself, so while doing field work on Omaha-Ponca I tried to elicit questions like ''who hit who?'' and ''who likes what?'', with no success. My informants cheerfully gave me translations, but they were always either multi-clausal or else left out the second wh: ''Who got hit and by the way, who hit him?'' ''Who likes all these things?'' -- responses along those lines. I pushed rather hard and never got a true multiple question.

On the other hand, several factors make me reluctant to claim absolutely that Omaha-Ponca has no multiple questions.

(1) Omaha-Ponca is spoken only by elderly people, and only in fairly restricted circumstances. The speakers I worked with were very fluent, but all used English for most purposes in their daily lives and might not control the full repertoire of syntactic constructions that earlier generations of monolingual speakers had.
(2) Multiple questions are hard to elicit anyway, in any language. I've had speakers of Bulgarian (and even English) object to multiple questions in elicitation (''no one would say anything like that'') and then the same speaker will spontaneously use a multiple question in conversation...''

- ------------------

Omaha-Ponca would be the only language I heard of that displays such a property. So I hope, Catherine will keep on exploring that language and inform the public :)

Manideepa Patnaik ( pointed me to the following pieces of work:

''Srikumar's thesis on Wh-movement in Kannada is a very good source of information on how Wh-phrases behave in a Dravidian language that is Wh-in-situ. I am sure you must have looked at Anoop Mahajan's MIT thsis that was submitted in 1990 on A and A bar movement in HIndi.''

I haven't found Srikumar's thesis yet, so I don't know whether it is relevant here. Hindi is a wh-in-situ labguage, but it has multiple wh-in-situ. And what I found about Dravidian languages points to the same direction.

- -------------------------------

Nathan True suggested that French is sort of what I am looking for:

>From Thu May 24 08:06:26 2001

I'm sure you've already received some fine answers to your question, but I thought I might contribute anyway. I work with French, which is not typically called wh-in-situ, but which does display it:

T(u) es qui?
you are who
''Who are you?''

Tu vas o??
you go where
''Where did you go?''

T(u) as fais quoi?
you PAST do what
''what did you do?''

Among many other wh-formations, French displays minimal pairs such as:

Tu vas o??
O? tu vas?

but does not seem to have the same semantic difference as the same pair in English would. The first would be an echo question or emphatic and would have to have different stress in English but not in French.

So, while French does show in-situ wh-elements, it does not allow, as far as I know, constructions like the following.

*T'as fais quoi o??

Nathan True
French and Italian Department
University of Texas at Austin

- ------

Our French informants told us that clauses like the last one mentioned by Nathan are not that bad. Furthermore, clauses like the following one are perfect:

qui a donn? quoi a qui?
who has given what to whom

Here, we have three wh-elements, two of which are in-situ, one of them is fronted. So, I'm afraid that French is not the case we are looking for. In addition to that, Fabian Heck ( quoted the following example from Boskovic's NELS 30 paper:

(i) il a donne quoi a qui?
he has given what to whom

This is the perfect counterexample - which is again confirmed by our informants.

- ---------

Hyo Sang Lee informed me that the order of adverb and direct object should be reversed in the 'glosses' I gave in my query above to yield good Korean, though the order object-adverb is not ill-formed, but just restricted to specific contexts - sorry, I should have known that, or at least guessed, because German is very similar in this:

- ---------
>From Tue May 29 16:36:07 2001

''As a native speaker of Korean, however, I'd just like to say that Korean, a WH-in-situ language, too, has some restrictions. Your example #3a would be appropriate only in some contexts, and sould odd in other contexts. In general, 'you where what did?' would be most natural rather than 'you what where did?':

[You see an acquaintance after a long while]
Ku-tongan eti-se mwe ha-sy-ess-e-yo?
* Ku-tongan mwe eti-se ha-sy-ess-e-yo?

You can say:
mwusun hakkwi-lul eti -se ha-sy -ess -e-yo?
what degree -ACC where-LOC do-HONOR-ANT-IE-POL
'What degree did you get where?'

as well as
eti -se mwusun hakkwi-lul ha-sy -ess -e-yo?
where-LOC what degree -ACC do-HONOR-ANT-IE-POL
'What degree did you get where?'

when you interview someone for a job.

Of course if you abide the notion of grammaticality in generative grammar, you could still say your #3a is ''grammatical''. I am not a persuant of generative grammar. And I don't believe in their concept of ''grammaticality''. I just want to let people know that so-called ''free word order'' is not free at all. ''

- ------------

I hope this is informative to some of you out there. An interesting hypothesis behind this apparent typological gap - provided that Omaha Ponca is no counterexample - would be that the restriction to single wh-clauses is related to, and perhaps a result of, overt wh-movement and its properties in the given language.

Best regards,
Ralf Vogel

Ralf Vogel
Institute of Linguistics University of Potsdam
Private - fone: 030 21808465 fax: 0179 336906107 funk: 0179 6906107

LL Issue: 12.1725
Date Posted: 03-Jul-2001
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page