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Wh-words in Hittite: A Study in Syntax-Semantics and Syntax-Phonology Interfaces.


This dissertation provides the first unified account for the distribution and interpretation of wh-words in Hittite as indefinites, interrogatives and relativizers. Based on cross-linguistic comparanda, Hittite wh-words display the typical behavior of indefinite polarity items, and are prosodically deficient. As such, I argue that the surface positioning of wh-words in Hittite involves the syntax-semantics interface, and the syntax-phonology interface.

The non-standard word order of indefinites in Hittite is attributed to two factors. For an existential interpretation, Hittite wh-words must remain within the [vP] and are bound by the Rule of Existential Closure. For a presuppositional interpretation, indefinites undergo Quantifier Raising to IP. The final surface position of indefinites is determined by the syntax-phonology interface to satisfy prosodic restrictions: wh-words in Hittite are subject

to Prosodic Inversion at Spell Out.

As an interrogative, I argue that the wh-form consists of a phonologically null determiner with a [+wh] feature plus the Hittite wh-word kui-. Hittite wh-in situ is triggered by an intonational Q-morpheme, and is underspecified as [Q: ], enabling it to license both yes-no questions and wh-questions, as in modern French. Based on experimental evidence from living languages, I propose that the accentual nature of wh-words in Hittite interrogatives is the outcome of

the stress assignment by the intonational Q-morpheme.

Finally, I offer the first alternative analysis to Held’s (1957) account of Hittite correlative clauses. I demonstrate that preposed “indeterminate” correlatives represent wh-conditional clauses, as in Mandarin Chinese, Serbo-Croatian, and early Latin. The accented nature of the wh-word in wh-conditionals is derived from the stress assignment by contrastive Focus. I show that the peculiar distribution of the wh-word in “determinate” preposed correlatives

resembles that of indefinites: the wh-word is bound by the rule of Existential Closure and may be subject to Prosodic Inversion at Spell Out. I show that postposed correlatives may be restrictive or non-restrictive, and that Middle Hittite and New Hittite texts also exhibit embedded relative clauses.

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