Multiple wh-questions: adjuncts

Related to this but let’s make it a separate thread.

This is about adjuncts and multiple wh-questions, as in What does the cat see where?

I am working on a pseudolanguage right now where there is generally SVO word order and obligatory fronting of one (and exactly one) wh-phrase.

Suppose for a moment that adjuncts generally go after the head, so The cat sleeps there is good and There the cat sleeps isn’t.

Here’s some questions:

  1. In sentences like Who saw what?, saw what is licensed by the normal head-comp rule, however who is attached via Head-Filler rule, and so the VP must first undergo subject extraction. This is despite the fact that who appears in the normal subject position. This is the analysis that we want, yes? (That’s what the ERG does, too).

  2. Now with adjuncts, does this mean, if the adjunct appears in its normal position but it is a wh-phrase, what should I be doing? Should there be adjunct extraction or not?

Something like: What does the cat see where?

Below there isn’t an auxiliary, this is a pseudolanguage:

52%20PM

In the left tree, the cat sees [ SLASH what] where is licensed by a Head-Adjunct rule (NB: I had to create a special one which does not insist on an empty slash-list; still need the regular one to rule out The cat sleeps where). Then the whole thing is licensed by wh-question rule, attaching what. This seems symmetric to what I am already doing for Who sees what?

On the right, what the cat sees is licensed by wh-question rule, and then the adjunct is extracted and attached, by the same special Head-Adjunct rule.

Which direction should I be taking?

I don’t understand why you have a right-ward filler-head rule (attaching where in the second tree). Is this part of the wh question analysis? Something else? The tree on the left is the one I expect.

And yes, I think we want wh subjects to involve extraction even though that position is string identical in this case to in situ for these languages. It’s possible that G&S go the other way on this, but I don’t remember the details.

The topmost rule is actually (special) head-adjunct which allows a slashed daughter.

I can get rid of the right tree by saying its synsem is MC -. The question is, do I perhaps want this sort of tree, if subjects are first extracted and then attached via the filler-head, even if they are in their usual position? I also thought the left tree was the one I wanted, but I am not sure why that’s the case; if subjects are extracted, why not adjuncts? Is this because the subject is both in its normal position AND on the left? While the adjunct is on the right?

If that’s a head-adj rule, I’m confused about why you’re talking about the adjunct being extraction. We sometimes (re)use SLASH for rightward long-distance dependencies like extraposition, but that’s not what’s going on here that I can see. As far as I know, wh-question-type long distance dependencies are always to the left.

I think you don’t want both of these trees (I can’t see how it’s anything other than spurious ambiguity), so the question is which tree is easier to rule out, without causing other problems :slight_smile:

Sorry – it’s confusing because I produced both of the trees with the same grammar, but I only meant to use the picture to illustrate the shape of the trees.

Theoretically, why do we want subjects to be extracted but not adjuncts? That’s really my question.

We do want adjunct extraction in cases like Where do you think Kim went? and arguably also On Tuesday Kim left for Paris. But that’s not the kind of example you’re talking about.

So, the difference is actually right vs. left?

In Who sees what?, the subject is in its usual position and that position is on the left.
In Where does the cat sleep?, the adjunct is not in its usual position and it is on the left.
In What does the cat see where? the adjunct is in its usual position and it is on the right.

We want extraction when things are on the left but not when they are on the right? And whether or not there is any visible changes in the surface order is irrelevant?

Right. And the reason we want that is that we can construct examples where it is long-distance to the left but not to the right (in this domain; extraposition goes long-distance to the right):

Who did Kim say saw Sandy?
Where did Kim say Sandy went?

… I can’t construct an example which attempts rightward long-distance extraction and is ungrammatical, but anything I can come up with doesn’t require long-distance extraction:

Who did Kim say ate the cake when?

… where presumably when could modify either say or ate, but in either case it can just attach locally to the relevant VP.

1 Like