All proceedings
Enter a document #:
Enter search terms:

Info for readers Info for authors Info for editors Info for libraries Order form Shopping cart

Bookmark and Share Paper 1316

wh-Question Formation in Nguni
Joachim Sabel and Jochen Zeller
271-283 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper presents an analysis of wh-questions in Zulu, a Nguni language spoken in South Africa (Southern Bantu, Zone S), on the basis of the typology of wh-questions that has been developed in the theoretical work of Sabel (1998, 2000, 2004). Zulu, like many other Bantu and non-Bantu languages that display wh-clefting, shows a *wh-in [Spec, T]-restriction: wh-arguments may occur either in situ in VP or ex situ in cleft constructions, but never ex situ in the structural subject position [Spec, T]. The account for this restriction offered by Sabel and Zeller is based on the idea that the formation of a wh-question universally involves the checking of [wh]- and [focus]-features which are associated with the wh-phrase and functional heads in the syntax. Sabel and Zeller assume that the [wh]-feature associated with the C-position of a wh-question in Zulu is weak and therefore does not trigger overt movement of a wh-phrase to [Spec, C]. Based on a comparative study of indirect questions and partial wh-movement in Zulu and other optional wh-in situ languages such as Duala and French, Sabel and Zeller then suggest that Zulu projects a focus phrase FocP below TP in wh-questions. The head of FocP hosts the [focus]-feature, which is strong in wh-clefts and checked by the clefted wh-phrase in [Spec, Foc], and weak otherwise. The *wh-in [Spec, T]-restriction in Zulu follows from this assumption: a wh-argument cannot move to [Spec, T] across the focus-projection, since Foc includes an unchecked feature which matches the feature of the wh-phrase, but it cannot move to [Spec, T] via [Spec, Foc] either, since this would be a case of improper movement (A-bar movement followed by A-movement is illicit).

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages and Linguistics in Broad Perspectives
edited by John Mugane, John P. Hutchison, and Dee A. Worman
Table of contents
Printed edition: $280.00