The Cleft Question and the Question of Cleft

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This paper argues that in cleft constructions in Malayalam, the clefted constituent is (overtly) moved to the cleft focus, and that the ‘gap’ in the cleft clause is not created by movement of an empty operator as was proposed in Madhavan (1987) and some later studies. The cleft clause is shown to be non-finite; it has an Aspect Phrase dominating the <i>v</i>P, and no Tense node. This move solves the problem of moving a constituent out of the cleft clause without violating any constraint on movement. Non-copular clauses in general are argued to be in the domain of a Mood Phrase wherein resides finiteness. The paper also shows that the T node of the matrix clause of a cleft construction hosts a [+FOCUS] feature whereby it is able to attract an XP from within the clause. The idea in Jayaseelan (2000) that there is a Focus Phrase immediately above <i>v</i>P is integrated into the proposed analysis in such a way that the obligatory clefting of embedded interrogatives receives a principled explanation.


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