From northern Italian to Asian wh-in situ: A theory of low focus movement

Caterina Bonan


The mainstream literature on the Romance dialects of northern Italy has explained the morphosyntax of clause-internal wh-elements in answer-seeking interrogatives as either the result of interrogative movement into the lower portion of the high left periphery (Munaro et al. 2001, Poletto & Pollock 2015, a.o.), or as a canonical instance of scope construal (Manzini & Savoia 2005;2011). New empirical evidence from Romance suggests that there is more at stake in the computation of wh-interrogatives than we used to think, and that neither of the existing approaches to northern Italian ‘wh-in situ’ can be maintained. Here, I argue that northern Italian dialects and Asian languages are, at least in this respect, more similar than we originally thought, and then I offer a new, derivationally economic and cross-linguistically supported understanding of the morphosyntax of northern Italian wh-in situ: the theory of wh-to-foc. Accordingly, all cross-linguistic core properties of this phenomenon can be attributed to different combinations of the setting of universal micro-parameters related to the interrogative movement of wh-elements.


wh-movement; focus; Q-particles; wh-in situ; peripheries; language change

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