[Lingtyp] Positions of interrogative pronouns

Seino van Breugel seinobreugel at gmail.com
Fri Mar 27 02:57:12 UTC 2015

In Atong, a Tibeto-Burman language of Northeast India, the position of the
interrogative in the clause can vary just like the position
of other core and peripheral arguments (see page 163 in: van Breugel,
Seino. 2014. *A grammar of Atong*. Leiden, Boston: Brill). The position of
arguments in a clause is pragmatically conditioned. To understand the
structure of clauses in Atong, I advise reading sections 20,1; 20.2; 23.1
and 23.2 of the same book.



Dr. Seino van Breugel
Lecturer in Linguistics
Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand

On Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 4:47 PM, Kilu von Prince <watasenia at gmail.com>

> Dear all,
> I'm forwarding a query by Gisbert Fanselow below. If you have any
> pertinent information you could share, that would be highly appreciated!
> Best,
> Kilu
> I have a query concerning languages that
> a.) allow multiple questions (what did you ask when?)
> and
> b.) form content questions by placing the wh-pronoun at the left edge of
> the clause (or at least place it to the left of its canonical position),
> either optionally or obligatorily. It would not matter to me of the more
> leftward placement of the wh-pronoun is accompanied by further changes
> (say, clefting), or not.
> Here is the question concerning these languages:
> English is characterized by the so-called superiority effect: when both
> the subject and the object are wh-pronouns, then only the subject, but not
> the object can be placed at the left periphery of the clause
> I wondered who asked what
> *I wondered what who asked
> German, in contrast, does not show this restriction
> Ich frage mich (I wonder)
> wer was fragte (who.nom what asked)
> was wer fragte (what who.nom asked)
> I have the impression  that the English pattern is rare, and I have
> several hypothesis as to what triggers the effect we see in English. I have
> extracted information on a number of languages from the literature, but the
> info you can get there is so heavily biased on European languages that one
> cannot draw any firm conclusions.
> Therefore, information on which non-European languages follow the German
> pattern, and which languages follow the English one would be much
> appreciated.
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