Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:

$33698

Still Needed:

$41302

Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington


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


New from Oxford University Press!

ad

What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.


New from Cambridge University Press!

ad

Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.


Summary Details


Query:   Topicalization of Wh-Phrases
Author:  Liang Chen
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Syntax

Summary:   Dear all,
A couple of days ago, I posted an inquiry regarding
crosslinguistic variation on the availability of
syntactic wh-topicalization.

Epstein (1992) attempts to account for the impossible
wh-topicalization in English in terms of Economy
Constraint.

(1) a. Who said that John likes Mary?
b. Who said that Mary, John likes?
c. Who said that John likes who?
d. * Who said that who John likes?

However, it seems that the equivalent of (1d) in (2)
is good.

(2) shei shuo shei zhangsan hen xihuan
who say who Zhangsan very like

I raised the following three questions:

(i) What is the case with other languages?
(ii) How to account for the cross linguistic
difference?
(iii) Can the ungrammaticality of (1d) be accounted
for in terms of information conflict between topic and
wh-phrases?

Although the responses are not overwhelming, they are
really informative and stimulating. I am grateful to.
Dr. Jeremy Whistle, Dr. Kleanthes K. Grohmann, Dr.
Gereon Muller, Dr. Rudy Troike, Dr. Elisa Steinberg,
Dr. Bart Mathias, an anonymous professor and the
linguistlist staff.
As always,I will post a follow up summary if I get any
more information.

The following is a short and hopefully intermediate
summary.

1) The English fact is not clear. That is, some
English speakers find (1b) and (1c) equally
unacceptable.

2) The intuitive incompatibility between topicalizing
a constituent (expressing ''old information'') and
focussing the same thing (''new information'') might
explain the ungrammaticality of the English examples
(assuming there is a contrast between (1c) and (1d)).

3) The problem then remains how to rule in the Chinese
sentences, as Wu (1999) provides ample evidence to
show that a fronted WH is a topicalized WH in Chinese
as in (2).

3) German is similar to English in that Wh-phrases
cannot undergo topicalization. And Spanish seems to
behave like Chinese. Dr. Gereon Muller argues that the
process in question must be topicalization because
topicalization in German triggers verb-second;
scrambling does not. (That said, scrambling of
wh-phrases is typically also not very well possible in
German.)

4) It is not obvious to me whether topicalization in
English is a semantically homogeneous phenomenon (see,
e.g., Culicover's work).

5) It seems there is a gap between syntactic
topicalization and semantic topicalization.

6)There might also be crosslinguistic variation on the
topicalizability of quantified phrases.

References:

Cho, Sungeun and Xuan Zhou. 1999. ''The Interpretation
of Wh-Elements in Conjoined Wh-Questions'' ms.SUNY
Stony Brook.

Muller, Gereon. and Wolfgang Sternefeld 1996. A-bar
Chain Formation and Economy of Derivation. Linguistic
Inquiry.

Grohmann, Kleanthes K. 2000. Prolific Peripheries: A
Radical View from the Left PhD dissertation.
University of Maryland.
http://www.punksinscience.org/kleanthes

Tang, C.-C.Jane. 1988.''Wh-Topicalization in Chinese''
ms. Cornell University.

Wu, Jianxin. 1996. ''Wh-Topic, Wh-Focus and Wh-in situ''
University of Maryland Working Papers.

Wu, Jianxin. 1999. ''Syntax and Semantics of
Quantification in Chinese'' PhD Dissertation.
University of Maryland. [downloadable from the UMD
web-site, http://ling.umd.edu , then go to the paper
Archive]

Liang Chen
Department of Linguistics
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT 06269-1145

LL Issue: 12.2601
Date Posted: 18-Oct-2001
Original Query: Read original query


Back

Sums main page