Cyclicity and the Scope of Wh-Phrases

C. Agüero-Bautista, 2001

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This dissertation argues that in the context of constituent questions with quantifiers, there is a particular interpretation (i.e. the PL interpretation) that, when understood properly, tells us if and how the wh-phrase has moved. In particular, the thesis argues that in a constituent question with a universal quantifier, syntactic reconstruction of the wh-phrase below the quantifier is the source of scope ambiguities. I argue, based on the interaction of PL readings with binding conditions A and C, that syntactic reconstruction of the wh-phrase below the quantifier is necessary for the PL readings or family-of-questions interpretation to be available.

The thesis takes as a starting point the assumption, fundamental to the approaches of May (1985), Aoun and Li (1993), and Chierchia (1993), that wh–quantifier interaction is subject to a nesting–crossing asymmetry. Two things are shown in the first two chapters: 1) that the subject–object asymmetry is a relative phenomenon depending on the type of the quantifier used (whether one uses each vs. every) and the type of the wh-phrase extracted (e.g. a which-phrase vs. a how many–phrase), and 2) questions with quantifiers exemplifying nesting configurations are in fact unambiguous when reconstruction of the wh-phrase is blocked by binding theoretic principles. The data show that nesting is insufficient, whereas reconstruction is a necessary condition for the availability of PL readings. The proper treatment of wh–quantifier interaction is therefore one that treats the phenomenon in terms of reconstruction.

The second part of the thesis argues that reconstruction is necessary for PL readings, because such interpretations are a particular case of variable binding in which the universal quantifier binds an implicit variable in one of the copies of the wh-phrase, which is analyzed as a skolemized choice function as in Kratzer’s (1998) theory of indefinites. It is argued on the basis of empirical considerations that WCO is irrelevant contra Chierchia (1993) because WCO does not apply in the case of implicit variables.

The third part of the dissertation shows that the reconstruction view of PL readings opens up the possibility of using such interpretations as a diagnostic for successive cyclicity (i.e. to tell us if and how the wh-phrase has moved). It is argued that using the distribution of PL readings as a diagnostic for cyclicity can shed some light on the phenomenon of clitic doubling in Spanish. In addition, by comparing the interaction of overtly displaced wh-phrases with quantifiers, on the one hand, and the interaction of wh in situ and universal quantifiers, on the other, I have argued that whereas overtly moved wh-phrases move in successive cyclic fashion, wh-phrases in situ do not get their scope via successive cyclicity. The analysis is also relevant to the syntax of sluicing.

Thesis Supervisor:      Irene Heim, Professor of Linguistics

1 The proper treatment of scope ambiguity in questions with quantifiers 8
1.0 Introduction 8
1.1 The proper treatment of wh–quantifier interaction 15
  1.1.1 May’s view 16
  1.1.2 Aoun and Li’s approach 21
  1.1.3 Evaluating scope-principles-based approaches 24
  1.1.4 The Weak Cross Over (WCO) account of wh–quantifier interaction 26 An unattested prediction of the WCO account 28
  1.1.5 Summary 29
1.2 Problems with the subject–object asymmetry 30
  1.2.1 Problems with the quantifier each 30
  1.2.2 Problems with the quantifier every 32
  1.2.3 The plurality hypothesis 33
  1.2.4 Problems with the plurality account 36 The double plural requirement (DPR) 36 Spanish who-phrases and PL interpretations 37 Questions with quantifiers of the form every–NP and the DPR 41 Cumulative readings vs. PL interpretations in weak islands contexts 43 Cumulative readings, PL interpretations, and exhaustiveness 46
  1.2.5 Interim summary 50
  1.2.6 The subject–object asymmetry as a relative phenomenon 52 A preliminary proposal 56
  1.2.7 Summary and conclusion 57
2 A reconstruction view of scope ambiguity in questions with quantifiers 59
2.0 Introduction 59
2.1 Syntax 60
  2.1.1 BT(A) reconstruction and PL interpretations 62
  2.1.2 Trapping the culprit: the need of syntactic reconstruction in PL interpretations 70
  2.1.3 Trapping with raising constructions 73
  2.1.4 Each vs. every 78
  2.1.5 Lack of scope reconstruction in WIs: Longobardi’s observation 86
  2.1.6 Reconstruction and the copy theory of movement 90
  2.1.7 Summary 92
2.2 Semantics 93
  2.2.1 The choice function analysis of wh-phrases and indefinites 94
  2.2.2 The Donald Duck problem and A-bar reconstruction 99
  2.2.3 Kratzer’s theory of indefinites 101
  2.2.4 A choice function analysis of wh–quantifier interaction 103
  2.2.5 PL interpretations and the binding of implicit variables 109 Why WCO is irrelevant 111
  2.2.6 Choice functions and the generality of PL interpretations 114
  2.2.7 The relationship between Pair-List readings and functional readings 116 Position 1 117 Position 2 123 Position 3 124 Functional readings have two sources 125
  2.2.8 Scoping beyond the first conjunct: telescoping 130
  2.2.9 The other source of functional readings 134
  2.2.10 Summary and conclusion 141
3 Cyclicity and PL readings in wh–quantifier interactions 143
3.0 Introduction 143
3.1 Pair-List readings as a diagnostic for successive cyclicity 144
  3.1.1 The vP as an intermediate landing site 145 Evidence for the vP cycle as a landing site: the case of Indonesian 149
  3.1.2 Resumptive chains with universal quantifiers 156 Sells’ view of resumptive pronouns 157 Interpreting resumptive chains 163 Questions, quantifiers, and clitic doubling in Spanish 167 Aoun’s (1981) account 170 Jaeggli’s (1982) proposal 170 Borer’s (1984) Case agreement account 171 Torrego’s (1995) proposal 171 Suñer’s (1988) matching account 172 The role of resumption in clitic doubling constructions in Spanish 175 Lo and the Matching Principle (MP) 177 Wh in situ in Spanish: an asymmetry in clitic doubling 183 Anti-subjacency with the accusative clitic 186 Wh-constructions, the accusative clitic, and strong islands 188
  3.1.3 Interim summary 192
  3.1.4 Longobardi’s observation and the selectivity of weak islands 192
  3.1.5 Summary to part 1 198
3.2 Asymmetries between overt wh-movement and wh in situ 199
  3.2.1 Movement-based approaches 201
  3.2.2 In situ theories 203
  3.2.3 Displaced wh-phrases vs. wh-phrases in situ: a scope asymmetry 204 Wh–quantifier interaction in Indonesian: an asymmetry 205 Wh–quantifier interaction in Chinese 207 Questions with quantifiers in quiz-master questions 209
  3.2.4 A proposal: in situ interpretation without choice functions 212 Possibility 1: the wh-phrase stays inside the WI 214 Possibility 2: the wh-phrase moves in a single swoop 215
  3.2.5 Conclusion and open issues 224
4 References 226