Monday, June 06, 2005

Multiple wh-fronting in Spanish?

I discovered, to my surprise, that multiple wh-fronting is sometimes possible in Spanish:

(1) ¿Cómo, por qué, para qué, a quién enseñamos Español?

This literally means: "How, why, to what, to whom do (we) teach Spanish?"

Furthermore, the order of wh-phrases is actually free in these cases. However, multiple fronting is blocked if the subject is questioned:

(2) * Quién cómo compró?

Direct Object questions also seems to have a blocking effect:

(3) *¿Qué cómo compraste?

but they can be ameliorated with a resumptive clitic and coordination (to my judgement, anyway):

(4) ¿(Dime) qué y cómo lo compraste?

And DO-IO questions are not bad (I think):

(5) Qué (y) a quién (le) compraste?

So, when we question non arguments, we can freely front wh-phrases, but with arguments it seems to be some restrictions. I was thinking about that. Do you know if this has been noticed (not only for Spanish, but other languages)?


At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is your first example an oral one? Or is it taken from a written document?

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The examples 4 and 5 are more like two sentences that share the same verb.

Comó lo compraste? y Por qué lo compraste?

reduced to
Comó y por qué lo compraste?

The y is a trace for there a 2 sentences because the y fit two phrases that are similar (in general two main sentences )

This paralelisms happens very often in classic latin


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