Position of Interrogative Phrases in Content Questions (Feature 12)
In many languages (especially languages with verb-object order), the interrogative phrase (or “wh-phrase”) is normally or obligatorily fronted in content questions, i.e. occurs initially in the clause.
In other languages, they can occur in the position in which they would occur in the corresponding declaratives (”in situ”), or in another special position (e.g. a preverbal focus position). Here we only distinguish two possibilities: initial and non-initial (i.e. in situ, or in some other non-initial position)
For this feature, only interrogative phrases that do not normally occur initially in the clause should be considered, because with initially occurring elements (such as subjects) one cannot tell whether they are fronted in constructions like Who came?.
Note that “initial” does not necessarily mean absolutely initial position. Initial interrogative phrases may be preceded by highlighting particles or copulas in cleft constructions (e.g. Belizean Creole A huɛls dɛ wid unu? [top who else loc with 2pl] ‘Who else was with you?’).
If the language has several different interrogative constructions for content questions, you may select several values (e.g. French Tu as vu qui? or Qui est-ce que tu as vu? ‘Who did you see?’)
Only ordinary, non-echo questions should be taken into account. Echo questions may behave differently. Even in English, echo questions allow in-situ placement of the interrogative phrase ("You bought what?").
|1||Interrogative phrase initial|| Réunion Creole |
Kosa li va fer ek sa?
[what he fut do with that]
‘What will he do with it?’
|2||Interrogative phrase not initial|| Juba Arabic|
Íta ge rówa wen?
[2sgprog go where]
‘Where are you going?’