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Dissociating intervention effects from superiority in English wh-questions

Hadas Kotek
From the journal The Linguistic Review

Abstract

In wh-questions, intervention effects are detected whenever certain elements – focus-sensitive operators, negative elements, and quantifiers – c-command an in-situ wh-word. Pesetsky (2000, Phrasal movement and its kin. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) presents a comprehensive study of intervention effects in English multiple wh-questions, arguing that intervention correlates with superiority: superiority-violating questions are subject to intervention effects, while superiority-obeying questions are immune from such effects. This description has been adopted as an explanandum in most recent work on intervention, such as Beck (2006, Intervention effects follow from focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics 14. 1–56) and Cable (2010, The Grammar of Q: Q-particles, wh-movement, and pied-piping. Oxford University Press), a.o. In this paper, I show instead that intervention effects in English questions correlate with the available LF positions for wh-in-situ and the intervener, but not with superiority. The grammar allows for several different ways of repairing intervention configurations, including wh-movement, scrambling, Quantifier Raising, and reconstruction. Intervention effects are observed when none of these repair strategies are applicable, and there is no way of avoiding the intervention configuration – regardless of superiority. Nonetheless, I show that these results are consistent with the syntax proposed for English questions in Pesetsky (2000, Phrasal movement and its kin. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) and with the semantic theory of intervention effects in Beck (2006, Intervention effects follow from focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics 14. 1–56).

Acknowledgements

For helpful comments, discussions and support, I thank David Pesetsky, Danny Fox, Martin Hackl, Irene Heim, Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine, and audiences at the LSA 87, NELS 44, GLOW 38, DGfS 37 workshop: “What drives syntactic computation? Alternatives to formal features”, as well as audiences at MIT and McGill. This research is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1251717 and the Mellon Foundation. Parts of this work will appear in a festschrift for David Pesetsky, and have appeared in my dissertation. All errors are mine.

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Published Online: 2017-5-17
Published in Print: 2017-10-26

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