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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Spell-out, Chains, and Long Distance Wh-movement in Seereer

  • Author(s): Baier, Nicholas
  • et al.

In this paper, I examine novel data from long distance wh-dependencies in Seereer, an Atlantic language of Senegal. Seereer long distance wh-questions are characterized by (a) the presence of an obligatory pronoun at the edge of each embedded clause and (b) the presence of special morphology on each verb along the path of the extraction. Thus, Seereer provides striking evidence that long distance wh-movement proceeds successive cyclically through the edge of each clause. I argue that this verbal morphology spells out a valued wh-probe on C, which triggers the movement of a wh-phrase to its Spec. I show that the pronouns present at the edge of each embedded clause have the properties of copies and not of resumptive pronouns, and argue that they are in fact spelled out intermediate  copies of the moved wh-phrase. I propose that such multiple copy spell out is possible precisely because they enter into a feature valuation relationship with C.  Specifically, I propose that valuation of an wh-probe defines a copy as the head of an A’-chain. Thus, the application of successive cyclic movement does not result in one long chain, but instead in a series of smaller chains. This view of the structure of long A’-chains, when combined with the independently motivated principle of spelling out the heads of chains, results in the pattern of multiple copy spell out that occurs in Seereer.

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