Multiple Wh-questions and the cleft construction in Malayalam

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Wh-questions in Malayalam are usually clefts, with the wh-phrase occupying the cleft focus. An alternative to clefting the wh-element is to cleft the whole clause containing the wh. When there are multiple wh-phrases in the embedded clause, however, the only option is to cleft the embedded clause wholesale. Another interesting observation is that when there is potential scope ambiguity involving, say, a time adverbial like <i>eppooL</i> &#8216;when&#8217;, clefting of the whole clause versus clefting of the time adverbial is being resorted to as a means to disambiguate. The paper shows that a two-way distinction of languages, namely those which are wh-in-situ and those which are not, will not do justice to the array of facts, and that a more nuanced typological account is called for. Keywords: Clefts; wh-in-situ; scope ambiguity; question interpretation


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