The topic of this paper is the "multi-functionality" of lexical items and—based on that—a more flexible treatment of the structure building component of syntax. The empirical basis is data from South German dialects which violate the Doubly-filled-Comp-Filter. Contrary to common beliefs, the insertion of a complementizer in addition to a moved wh-item is not unconstrained. Rather, the co-occurrence of a syntactically and phonologically simple wh-word together with a complementizer is ruled out whereas internally complex wh-phrases basically require a complementizer. The proposal is that these short wh-words can fulfill the function of a complementizer in addition to their clause-typing function as wh-elements. It is argued that these items have a "latent C-feature" which is activated under specific structural conditions. As "virtual" complementizers they project (after re-merge as a head) a CP which is additionally marked as <+wh>. The analysis is supported by morpho-phonological processes in these dialects as well as by similar patterns found in North-Norwegian. The suggested solution opens a realistic view on grammaticalization processes that lead to the emergence of various types of complementizers, e.g. the "what"-type declarative complementizers in various Indo-European languages.
Proceedings of the 26th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Charles B. Chang and Hannah J. Haynie
Table of contents