Covert movement in English probing wh-questions

An Duy Nguyen, Géraldine Legendre


Besides fronted information-seeking questions, English also allows for two types of wh-in-situ ones: echo questions, which are used to request a repetition or a clarification of a previous utterance, and probing questions, which are often used in quiz shows, classroom settings, and child-directed speech to "prompt" the addressee for an answer. An acceptability judgment task shows that PQs with multiple wh-phrases get a significantly lower acceptability score than echo questions with multiple wh-phrases despite their similarity in surface structure, which suggests a syntactic difference below the surface. Independent syntactic evidence confirms the result and further suggests that while echo questions involve no syntactic movement (Dayal, 1996), probing questions involve covert wh-movement.


wh-question; echo question; probing question; wh-in-situ; wh-movement; covert movement

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Copyright (c) 2020 An Duy Nguyen, Géraldine Legendre

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