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‘what’ did not move: Sluicing in Minimalist Grammars


Sluicing is a type of ellipsis where only a wh-phrase, the remnant, is pronounced while the entire TP node of the embedded interrogative clause is unpronounced (e.g. ‘John met someone, but I don’t know who’). Traditional analyses of sluicing (Ross 1969, Merchant 2001) involve wh-movement of the remnant, followed by the deletion of TP (e.g. ‘John met someone yesterday, but I don’t know who John met yesterday’). The remnant is taken to move overtly in a similar fashion to regular wh-words in questions. This dissertation argues against wh-movement in sluicing and proposes an alternative analysis that does not involve overt movement of the remnant. The analysis is explored with Malay (Austronesian, Malaysia), which has both movement and no movement for question formation. Evidence from Malay suggests that sluicing uses the no movement option rather than the movement option for sluicing. In the proposed analysis, the remnant does not move, while the surrounding material is elided (e.g. ‘John met someone yesterday, but I don‘t know John met who yesterday’). The remnant is argued to have the semantic characteristics of in situ wh-phrases and indefinites, both of which do not undergo movement. These characteristics are argued to give rise to the patterns seen in sluicing. This analysis is then implemented within the Minimalist Grammars framework, where the architecture of the grammar allows for the possibility of non-constituent deletion. Movement in Minimalist Grammars is thought to involve multi-component expressions that allows individual components to be held out of the main derivation. The analysis makes use of this notion of separation between components to implement sluicing.

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