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The French wh interrogative system

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Abstract

Today French speakers have access to at least five different variants of wh questions, which shows the inherent complexity of the wh interrogative system. This article aims at providing new pieces of evidence for the analysis of French wh interrogatives. Through the study of the evolution and usage of all variants, we show that the wh+<i>est-ce que</i> variants are at the center of the system&#8217;s evolution. They explain why so many variants have been preserved, and they are also the trigger of a possible structural change affecting the interrogative left periphery. Assuming the diglossic approach, some registers of French lack wh movement, and now produce wh interrogatives that are similar to syntactic clefting. Such an analysis predicts that wh in situ is to be expected, since it is part of the same register &#8211; grammar &#8211; as the wh <i>est-ce que</i>. This article provides ample empirical evidence, and it represents a first step towards a cleft-like analysis of French wh interrogatives.

References

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