Lecture Visiting Professors Programme: Marcel den Dikken and Hans Bennis

15 October 2009 from 15:00 to 16:00 hrs
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Wat dacht je wat? On the strategies for the formation of long-distance dependencies in constituent questions

Programme KNAW Visiting Professors Lecture SeriesLong-distance question formation is a central topic in linguistics. Two conflicting forces are at work: keeping (subordinate) clauses together, and putting question-words in first position. In standard Dutch, the latter wins: the question-word wie is up front; dat introduces the subordinate clause (Wie&dat&). But dialects of Dutch employ multiple question-words: either the question-words are copies of each other (Wie&wie&), or the sentence-initial question-word is invariably wat, with the 'real' question-word introducing the subordinate clause (Wat&wie&). Wie denk je {dat/wie} Piet gezien heeft? who think you {that/who} Piet seen has Wat denk je wie Piet gezien heeft?

These three strategies for forming long-distance questions are representative of the variation around the globe. How does syntax construct long-distance questions, and why do certain languages prefer certain strategies? Basing ourselves on Meertens Institute questionnaires, we survey the empirical and analytical territory to answer these questions.