The syntactic distribution of argument and adjunct question word constructions in Ikalanga

  • 1 University of Botswana, Gaborone


This paper investigates the distribution of argument and adjunct question phrases in Ikalanga. It is argued that both adjunct and argument question phrases in this language are focused, but that the former are merged in the specifier of a focus phrase (which projects either within vP or higher than TP) while argument question phrases occur in the specifier of a focus phrase as a result of a syntactic operation, namely attract. Evidence that adjunct question phrases are base generated in spec-FocP rather than moved there while argument question phrases are moved to spec-FocP comes from morphological differences observed between the two construction types as well as movement tests. There are two main points of interest related to the distribution of adjunct question phrases. One has to do with the fact that Ikalanga has one word chini which means ‘how’ or ‘how come’. The paper argues that speakers distinguish chini ‘how’ and ‘how come’ based on their syntactic distribution, which is complementary. chini ‘how come’ is always merged in the specifier of FocP and can occur either on the left edge of the sentence or on the right edge of the sentence. chini ‘how’ on the other hand only occurs at the right edge of the sentence or between the verb and its complement. It is shown that although chini ‘how come’ seemingly occurs on the right edge of the sentence, this is a derived position: it is a position that results after a proposition, a TP, has been topicalized leaving behind chini in spec-FocP. The second point of interest concerning the distribution of adjuncts is the rather unusual position they occupy, namely between the verb and its complement. The paper proposes that these data can be analyzed successfully by adopting the proposal that a focus phrase projects within vP (see Ndayiregige, Linguistic Inquiry 30: 399–444, 1999, van der Wal, The disjoint verb form and an empty immediate after verb position, ZAS, 2006, among others, for similar proposals.

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The Journal of African Languages and Linguistics was founded in 1979 and has established itself as an important refereed forum for publications in African linguistics. The journal welcomes original contributions on all aspects of African language studies, synchronic as well as diachronic, theoretical as well as data-oriented.