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Wh-questions and SOV languages in Hawkins' (2004) theory: Evidence from Basque

1University of the Basque Country

Correspondence address: Dept. of Linguistics and Basque Studies, University of the Basque Country, Paseo de la Universidad 5, 01006 Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 49, Issue 5, Pages 1079–1135, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: 10.1515/ling.2011.030, September 2011

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Published Online:


In this article I test Hawkins' (Efficiency and complexity in grammars, Oxford University Press, 2004) theory on wh-questions against Basque data from the 16th to 20th centuries. I focus on wh-fronting.

Basque has experienced a noticeable word-order change in wh-questions; namely, a restricting conventionalization (fixation) of relative orders out of a situation with freer word-order possibilities. What has been fixed is the adjacent position of the verb relative to the fronted wh-phrase.

The result of the present testing is that the predictions and principles proposed by Hawkins are well supported by the data. Yet, it seems that other principles may also account for some of the factors that play a role in the evolution of historical Basque.

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