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Linguistic Inquiry

Winter 2007, Vol. 38, No. 1, Pages 139-166
(doi: 10.1162/ling.2007.38.1.139)
© 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Wh-in-Situ Does Not Correlate with Wh-Indefinites or Question Particles
Article PDF (192.4 KB)

Two theories, the Clausal Typing Hypothesis (Cheng 1991) and the unselective binding theory of wh-in-situ, have linked wh-in-situ to two other phenomena typologically: the use of a question particle, and the use of wh-words as indefinites. This article shows, through a typological survey and a detailed comparison of Passamaquoddy and Mandarin Chinese, that there is no connection between wh-in-situ and either property. Passamaquoddy uses wh-words as indefinites in all the contexts Chinese does, but it is a robust wh-movement language. Crosslinguistically, languages of all possible types are attested: most crucially, wh-in-situ languages without question particles exist, and wh-in-situ languages that do not use wh-words as indefinites also exist. In fact, most languages, regardless of whether they are wh-movement or wh-in-situ languages, have question particles, and most languages use wh-words as indefinites.