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On the structure of A-bar constructions in Dagbani: Perspectives of «wh»-questions and fragment answers

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Samuel Alhassan Issah

This book provides an account of the structure of A-bar constructions, focusing on wh-questions and fragment answers in Dagbani, a Mabia (Gur) language spoken in Northern Ghana. It demonstrates that Dagbani wh-phrases occur in two distinct positions, ex-situ and in-situ, except for subject wh-phrases, which only occur in the former position. It provides a theoretical analysis of the distribution of the wh-phrases couched within minimalism (Chomsky 1995). Finally, the book gives an account of the structural correlation between wh-questions and their answers with the focus on the syntactic derivation of fragment answers. The author contends that the derivation of fragment answer involves two processes: A-bar movement together with PF-deletion

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Chapter six On the syntax of answers to wh-questions and the derivation of fragment answers

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6.0 Introduction

The preceding chapter provided language internal evidence to support the movement analysis proposed for the formation of Dagbani wh-questions in this dissertation. Given the proposed analysis according to which the derivation of in-situ and ex-situ wh-questions involves covert and overt movement respectively to Spec, Foc, a legitimate expectation is that they should be constrained by island effects. I demonstrated that in Dagbani syntactic domains such as relative clauses, coordinate structures, and complex NPs disallow extraction of wh-phrases in line with Ross’s (1967) notion of syntactic islands. This sensitivity to islandhood constraints, I argued offers straightforward support for the analysis that there is a movement operation in the derivation of wh-questions.

This chapter focuses on the structure of answers to wh-questions and the syntactic derivation of fragment (elliptical) answers. The formal similarity between the structure of answers to wh-questions and syntactic derivation of context-sensitive (fragments) answers raises both descriptively and theoretically interesting questions that require a systematic investigation. It is shown that although wh-phrases can occur in both ex-situ and in-situ positions, this distribution does not have to be identical in questions and their corresponding answers. This is because it is not mandatory for an ex-situ wh-question to have an ex-situ focus as its answer. I further discuss the constraints on question/answer pairs showing that there are some well-formedness constraints imposed on congruent answers in Dagbani, a fact that is quite pervasive in languages of the world.

The chapter also delves...

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