multiple wh-questions

Edith Moravcsik edith at UWM.EDU
Sat Mar 15 17:03:54 UTC 2008


A doctoral student here at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is carrying out a crosslinguistic survey of multiple wh-questions. So far we have not found much published material on the topic. If you are able to provide either data or literature references, this would be much appreciated.

The following are the basic research questions.

1/ SELECTION OF MULTIPLE WH-WORDS
   What wh-words can cooccur in a question? There are clearly some constraints here; for example, in English, (some) wh-words that are verb complements can cooccur but adjuncts resist the pattern; compare "Who read what?" but "*Who read the book why?"

2/ THE LINEAR ORDER OF MULTIPLE WH-WORDS RELATIVE TO THE REST OF THE SENTENCE
    Are multiple wh-words "in situ" or do they occupy some other position?

3/ THE LINEAR ORDER OF MULTIPLE WH-WORDS RELATIVE TO EACH OTHER
   Do multiple wh-words that are not "in situ" have a preferred or required order relative to each other?

4/ DO MULTIPLE WH-QUESTIONS ALWAYS HAVE A DISTRIBUTIVE INTERPRETATION?
   For example, English "Who read what?" assumes more than one subject and more than one things to read and asks about the distribution of the reading materials over the set of subjects. 

5/ WHAT DOES IT DEPEND ON WHETHER A LANGUAGE DOES OR DOES NOT HAVE MULTIPLE WH-QUESTIONS?
   This is a question about typological implications linking mutliple wh-questions to other properties of languages.

Thank you.

Edith A. Moravcsik
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Foreign
     Languages and Linguistics
University of Wisconsin-
     Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI 53201-0413
E-mail: edith at uwm.edu
Tel: (414) 229-3068
Fax: (414) 229-2741
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