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The Linguistic Review

Editor-in-Chief: van der Hulst, Harry

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Volume 34, Issue 2


Dissociating intervention effects from superiority in English wh-questions

Hadas Kotek
Published Online: 2017-05-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tlr-2017-0005


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).

Keywords: wh-questions; intervention effects; wh-in-situ; covert movement; superiority


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-05-17

Published in Print: 2017-10-26

Citation Information: The Linguistic Review, Volume 34, Issue 2, Pages 397–417, ISSN (Online) 1613-3676, ISSN (Print) 0167-6318, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tlr-2017-0005.

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