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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Grammar of Q: Q-Particles and the Nature of Wh-Fronting, as Revealed by the Wh-Questions of Tlingit Add Dissertation
Author: Seth Cable Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Completed in: 2007
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Documentation; Semantics; Syntax; Typology;
Subject Language(s): Tlingit
Director(s): Danny Fox
Norvin Richards
Irene Heim
David Pesetsky

Abstract: The central claim of this thesis is that the agent responsible for a
variety of phenomena surrounding wh-operators is not those operators
themselves, but rather a distinct element that we label a
‘Q(uestion)-particle’. In many languages, the Q-particle is phonologically
empty, and so its role in various phenomena has not yet been recognized.
Most importantly, careful study of these Q-particles reveals that the
phenomenon known as ‘pied-piping’ does not exist, and that all putative
examples of it are actually instances of normal phrasal movement of the

This thesis starts from the demonstration that wh-fronting in Tlingit
(Na-Dene; Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon) does not involve a syntactic
relationship between the interrogative C and the wh-word. Rather, it
involves a probe/Agree relation between C and an overt Q-particle
c-commanding the wh-word. Fronting of the wh-word in Tlingit wh-questions
is a mere by-product of fronting the projection of the Q-particle. From
this core observation, a syntax and semantics for Tlingit wh-questions is

Given the strong similarity between the wh-constructions of Tlingit and
those of more widely studied languages, the analysis developed for Tlingit
is then applied to a range of other languages. It is found that such a
‘Q-based’ theory of wh-constructions holds a variety of analytic consequences.

Regarding so-called ‘pied-piping structures’, the Q-based theory provides
an analysis of such structures where the very concept of ‘pied-piping’ is
eliminated from the theory of grammar. Furthermore, the Q-based theory
provides a semantics for wh-questions that correctly interprets pied-piping
structures without recourse to any mechanisms beyond those needed for
wh-questions without pied-piping. Finally, the Q-based theory accounts for
various constraints on pied-piping, and correctly predicts the scope and
limits of its variation across languages.

Beyond its treatment of pied-piping, the Q-based theory also provides a
novel syntax and semantics for multiple wh-questions, which successfully
ties the presence of Superiority Effects to the absence of Intervention
Effects, and which correctly predicts a previously unnoticed Intervention
Effect in English. Moreover, it provides a novel, unified account of the
ill-formedness of left branch extractions, as well as of preposition stranding.