This paper argues that the difference between right peripheral (WH-R) and in situ (WH-in situ) questions in American Sign Language (ASL) is an instantiation of the cross-linguistic dichotomy between clefted and non-clefted questions. Evidence collected from native signers is presented to show that WH-R questions are semantically distinct from their WH-in situ counterparts. WH-R questions (a) carry non-null presuppositions, (b) are exhaustive and (c) are contrastive. An analysis is presented in which WH-R questions are syntactically derived via focus movement of the WH-element and remnant topicalization of the remaining clausal constituent. This analysis provides a means of accounting for the cleft-like semantic properties of the WH-R question as well as its behavior in identificational contexts and multiple WH-questions.
Proceedings of the 28th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Mary Byram Washburn, Katherine McKinney-Bock, Erika Varis, Ann Sawyer, and Barbara Tomaszewicz Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-441-6 library binding
v + 322 pages
publication date: 2011
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA