Another look at wh-questions in Romance

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This article will attempt to show that there are at least two types of wh-doubling in Romance. In some languages, such wh-doubling involves a complex DP of the form [clitic wh-, wh-phrase], as in Illasi, Monno and the other North Eastern dialects of Italy studied in Poletto and Pollock (2004), Munaro and Pollock (2005). In others, such doubling configurations will be argued to result from merging a complex DP of the form [‘weak’ wh-element, wh-phrase] in argument position. The latter we shall show to be at the root of (some) doubling wh-structures in Mendrisiotto, the language spoken in Mendrisio and its surroundings. Correspondingly Mendrisiotto displays a tripartite distinction among wh-items: not only does it have clitic and strong (‘tonic’) wh-items but also weak wh-words, in the sense of Cardinaletti and Starke (1999). As in our previous work on the Northern Italian dialects we shall show that the structures and derivations at work in Mendrisiotto shed light on the syntax of French questions. Just as Illasi suggested very strongly that clitic que (‘what’) in French was paired with a null (strong) associate, Mendrisiotto suggests equally strongly that French quoi (‘what’) is the lexical counterpart of the null associate of the weak form cusa (‘what’) in Mendrisiotto. This hypothesis will be shown to play a major part in a satisfactory explanation of many apparently specific properties of French quoi. The rest of paper will provide a new analysis of French embedded ce que questions, (Qu-) est-ce que questions, ‘diable’ questions and so-called wh-in situ constructions.


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