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The syntax of WH-expressions as variables in Thai Ruangjaroon, Sugunya

Abstract

This dissertation presents an in-depth examination of Thai wh-expression as variables. I claim that wh-expressions are variables with no inherent interrogative force. As variables, they acquire different interpretations in different contexts. A syntactic relation between the operator and the variable is implemented in terms of the probe-goal relation (Chomsky 2000). The probe-goal relation is established by the operation of Match. In Thai, a goal (as a variable) is "underspecified" for featural content. A feature specified on the probe is copied onto the underspecified goal, thereby satisfying feature matching. In wh-contexts, the probe is identified as a covert interrogative Q[[sub wh]]. The [wh] feature of the probe Q is copied onto the underspecified goal. I argue that the probe-goal relation is established via Match (without Move). The covert Q[[sub wh]] probe is base-generated in C. In the context of negation, a goal matches the [neg] feature on the Neg probe, hence functioning as a Negative Polarity Item (NPI). In a yes-no construction, the goal matches the [polarity] feature on the Q[[sub polarity]] probe, functioning as an Existential Polarity Item (EPI). The probe-goal relation is predictably constrained by the c-command relation and locality conditions. In addition to wh in-situ, it appears there is also partial and long-distance wh-movement in Thai. However, contrary to superficial appearances, I argue that the probe-goal relation in Thai does not involve Move. In particular, I show that apparent cases of movement actually involve two distinct types of cleft constructions. The first I analyze as reduced contrastive wh-clefts with bare wh-expressions. The second I analyze as reduced identificational wh-clefts with D-linked wh-expressions. Semantically and syntactically, contrastive wh-clefts differ from identificational wh-clefts. Contrastive wh-clefts are formed with the overt copula (pen), a definite marker (t[sup h]î) and a nominalized clause. Identificational wh-clefts, on the other hand, are formed with the overt copula (k[sup h]i) and a relative clause.

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