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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Wh -fronting in Chinese
by Cheung, Candice Chi-Hang, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2008, 330; 3325212
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a theoretical investigation of wh-fronting phenomena in Mandarin couched in the Principles-and-Parameters (P&P) framework, and its recent developments within the Minimalist Program. Specifically, two constructions involving wh-fronting are investigated, including preposed wh-questions, and the parasitic gap (PG) construction. Close examination of their distributional patterns, interpretive, and syntactic properties reveals that they are best-analyzed as a type of contrastive focus construction, refuting the prevalent view that wh-fronting should be treated as an instance of "wh-topicalization" with the pre-clausal wh-phrase either base-generated or moved to SPEC-Top (Xu & Langendoen 1985, Tang 1988, Li 1996, Wu 1999, Kuong 2006, Pan 2006, inter alia). Such a proposal is further supported by the distinctive morphological, syntactic, and semantic properties of topics and contrastive foci in the language. A desirable consequence of this proposal is that wh-fronting in Mandarin need not be viewed as a language-specific phenomenon nor should its coexistence with in-situ wh-questions be surprising, since the coexistence of contrastive focus constructions, such as clefted questions, and simple wh-questions, is very common crosslinguistically (Kiss 1998).

With respect to the syntax of wh-fronting, a specific question addressed in this dissertation is whether overt movement obligatorily applies to the wh-phrase bearing contrastive focus in Mandarin. Two different approaches have been proposed for it-clefts in English: the null operator movement and overt movement analyses advanced by Chomsky (1977) (see also Kiss 1998). It is argued that both strategies are independently motivated to accommodate the fact that wh-arguments in preposed wh-questions may undergo movement or employ operator movement, depending on the availability of an intrusive pronoun. Additionally, it proposes that PP wh-phrases and the wh-adverbial weishenme 'why' uniformly undergo overt movement to SPEC-Foc in preposed wh-questions. A typology of contrastive focus constructions is advanced accordingly, advocating that overt movement and null operator movement should be licensing mechanisms available to contrastive focus constructions in Universal Grammar (UG). The typology put forth in this dissertation also gains support from the PG construction, which crucially relies on overt movement to derive the licensing gap, and null operator movement to derive the parasitic gap.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Vergnaud, Jean-Roger
School: University of Southern California
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 69/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Minimalist Program, Principles and parameters, Wh-fronting
Publication Number: 3325212
ISBN: 978-0-549-78878-2
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