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Optional Wh-Movement In Babine-Witsuwit'en
Natural Language & Linguistic Theory (2000)
  • Kristin Denham, Western Washington University
In this article, I argue that the Athabaskan language Babine-Witsuwit'en exhibits optional wh-movement.The optional fronting is shown not to be due to topicalization, focus, or clefling. Optional movement is of theoretical interest because it is not permitted in the Minimalist Program. Derivations are compared and only the most economical succeeds; thus,the optional movement outcome is not expected, and accounting for truly optional movement becomes an interesting question. I solve this problem by allowing optional selection of C from the lexicon. If C and its wh-feature appear in the numeration, it will prompt raising of a wh-feature and its accompanying wh-phrase to check off the wh-feature in C. If C does not appear in the numeration, then no wh-movement takes place. It is shown how this proposal can account for the position of wh-phrases in simple, complex, and embedded questions, as well as account for scope facts in Babine-Witsuwit'en. The role of C in other languages – its selection from the lexicon and the projection of C by certain verbs – is also briefly discussed.
  • Babine-Witsuwit'en,
  • Optional wh-movement
Publication Date
May, 2000
Publisher Statement
Kluwer Academic Publishers
Citation Information
Denham, K. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory (2000) 18: 199.