Homepage Universiteit Leiden

The Leiden Centre for Linguistics

Homepage Faculteit der Letteren Homepage ULCL Search Faculty E-mail to ULCL

   Theme groups
   PhD defences
   Advanced Master's

On Wh-Movement

We are happy to announce the workshop "On Wh-movement", which will be jointly organized by the University of Leiden Centre for Linguistics (ULCL) and the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics (UiL-OTS). The workshop will take place on December 12-13 (Thursday-Friday) and will be preceded on Wednesday (December 11) by a tutorial on Chomsky's 1977 paper "On WH-movement" that appeared 25 years ago and was a major step in the development of a general theory on Wh-movement processes.


If possible please register in advance for the workshop and/or the tutorial on December 11 by filling out the on-line registration form.


Lisa Cheng (Leiden University, L.L.Cheng@let.leidenuniv.nl
Norbert Corver (Utrecht University, Norbert.Corver@let.uu.nl)

Workshop location:

December 11 (tutorial) & December 12: Leiden University 
December 13: Utrecht University

Invited speakers:

Maggie Browning (Princeton University)

David Adger (University of York) 
Hans Bennis (Meertens Institute, Amsterdam) 
Gillian Ramchand (Oxford University) 
Howard Lasnik (University of Maryland) 
Luigi Rizzi (University of Siena/Geneva) 
Akira Watanabe (University of Tokyo)

Workshop description:

On Wh-movement

It is 25 years ago that Chomsky's On Wh-movement appeared. This article marks an important step in dismantling the rich descriptive apparatus provided by the theory of transformations and led to a general theory of wh-movement processes. Properties of Wh-constructions were no longer described in terms of single, construction-specific rules, such as Question formation, Relative clause formation and Topicalization. Rather, a general abstract rule "Move a constituent carrying the feature Wh into COMP" was adopted and a small number of core properties was identified which were considered to be automatic, inescapable properties of any operation that involves movement to COMP. Chomsky referred to these inherent properties of Wh-movement as the wh-diagnostics. These diagnostics are: (a) COMP is involved (b) Wh-movement leaves a gap; (c) it is subject to Subjacency (i.e. it observes such island constraints as the CNPC and wh-island constraint); (d) wh-movement appears to be unbounded in contexts where a so-called bridge verb is involved. Chomsky's contention was that, if a specific construction displays this constellation of wh-properties, it may plausibly be understood as a syntactic construct whose derivation involves displacement of a wh-element. This search for commonalities among transformational rules led to a dramatic reduction in the number of transformations (ultimately Move alpha) and introduced the view that syntactic constructions are nothing but a constellation of grammatical properties, some of them being universal and some of them being "construction-specific".

25 years after "On Wh-movement", the phenomenon of wh-movement (or in current terms: wh-attraction) still figures prominently on the generative research agenda and issues raised in Chomsky's seminal article of 25 years ago still deserve careful attention and further exploration. It is the aim of this workshop to consider some of the "old" issues addressed in Chomsky's paper, to elaborate on these and to raise new questions which are within the scope of a general theory of wh-movement. This will be done by focusing on the following four sub-themes: (A) wh-diagnostics; (B) construction-specific properties; (C) current views on Wh-movement constructions; (D) cyclicity.

(A) Wh-diagnostics. The diagnostic method employed in On Wh-movement has been recognized as an important tool in syntactic research. In On-wh-movement, emphasis was laid on the discovery of those core properties of the wh-movement rule: i.e. what are the core properties of the wh-movement rule. From a current perspective, one might raise the question why wh-constructions display the wh-diagnostics, as identified in the various wh-constructions. That is, why does the wh-expression occupy COMP? Why is there a trace (copy) of a particular kind in the extraction site? Why is the relation between the wh-element and its copy bounded? What explains the bridge properties of certain verbs, permitting escape of the wh-phrase from the clause. The question arises to what extent these wh-diagnostics can be accounted for in terms of Interface conditions and general properties of computational efficiency. At a more descriptive level, the issue of wh-diagnostics raises questions like: (i) To what extent do wh-in situ constructions (which arguably involve covert wh-movement) display wh-diagnostic properties? (ii) Is Move wh active in the non-clausal system (cf. which picture of Bill? How afraid of cats?), and if so, what does this mean for the wh-diagnostics? What are the implications of the decomposition of the COMP-system in a focus-phrase, topic phrase etcetera for the wh-diagnostic that Move wh moves an element to comp? To what extent, do we reintroduce construction-specificity along these lines?

(B) Construction-specific properties. Besides sharing the general wh-diagnostic features, wh-constructions may differ from each other with respect to more construction-bound characteristics. Such possible asymmetries between wh-constructions concern properties like: (i) pied piping; (ii) P-stranding; (iii) overtness of the wh-phrase; (iv) obligatoriness (versus optionality) of wh-movement; (v) the possibility of multiple wh-movement; (vi) the possibility of partial wh-movement. A major question for a research program on Wh-movement is how to account for those construction-bound properties in terms of other modules of the grammar. Furthermore, the question should be raised to what extent these non-wh-diagnostic properties are truly construction-specific. Very often, wh-constructions pattern on one or more properties, which suggests that a more general explanation should be sought.

(C) Current views on Move WH-constructions. After the appearance of "On Wh-movement", a great number of studies appeared on a variety of wh-constructions (e.g. topicalization, dislocation, (pseudo)clefts, relativization, comparative formation), each of them trying to show, on the basis of the wh-diagnostics, that Move wh is involved. This question about the empirical range of Move wh is still relevant. Furthermore, from a more recent perspective, the question arises how wh-movement is implemented in each of these construction types. That is: What triggers movement? Which scopal and discourse-related properties motivate the application of the Move wh rule at the interface? What movement steps are involved in the "Wh-movement process" (cf. e.g. Kayne's 1994 promotion analysis of relative clause constructions)? To what extent is covert wh-movement (feature movement) active in the various constructions that carry the label of "wh-construction"? How do we account for the presence of wh-reflexes on items such as Comp or Tense in certain wh-constructions? Is this wh-reflex a construction-specific property (e.g. only showing up in question formation) or does it apply at a more general level?

(D) Cyclicity. Wh-movement meets the condition of the (strict) cycle. In line with the cyclicity of derivation, wh-movement can be apparently unbounded via stepwise movement on successive cycles (through COMP-to-COMP movement). In On Wh-movement, it is further stated that Move wh, being a cyclic rule, is subject to the Subjacency condition, which states that a cyclic rule cannot move a phrase across two cyclic nodes. In recent work, Chomsky formulates the cyclicity condition in terms of the notion "Phase". Derivations proceed Phase by Phase and apparent unbounded movement is the result of short movement steps from the edge of one phase to the edge of a more inclusive phase. The issue of cyclicity raises a number of questions which are in need of further exploration: (i) What exactly are phases and what are the criteria for identifying them? (ii) Can the island effects, formerly subsumed under the Subjacency condition (i.e. no movement across two cyclic nodes), be reduced to a more strict locality constraint like Chomsky's Phase Impenetrability Condition ? (iii) Could it be that the inventory of Phases may vary from language to language (comparable to the idea put forward in On Wh-movement that there may be cross-linguistic variation in the inventory of bounding/cyclic nodes for Subjacency; cf. also Rizzi 1978/1982). (iv) To what extent does Cyclicity hold for covert displacements? (v) what formal reflexes (on C, on T, or on other functional heads) are found of the application of successive cyclic movement?; (vi) How do we account for apparent extractions from the non-periphery (i.e. non-edge) of certain phrases (e.g. Who did you see a picture of --?). 
By organizing this workshop, we hope to provide a forum to work towards settling at least some of these questions. 


Wednesday, December 11: TUTORIAL 

(Location: Leiden University, Building 1175 room 148: see map, red cross)

13.00 – 14.00 Registration for the workshop
14.00 – 17.00 Tutorial by Maggie Browning (Princeton University) on Chomsky’s 1977 article ‘On Wh-movement’.

Thursday, December 12: 

(Location: Leiden University, Rapenburg 73 klein auditorium: see map, blue cross)

Workshop-day 1. Themes (i) On wh-diagnostics
                                      (ii) On the nature of wh-movement

  9.00 – 10.00 Registration for the workshop
10.00 – 11.00 Luigi Rizzi (Universita' di Siena/Geneva): Wh movement: Cartography and Locality
11.00 – 11.15 Coffee break (and registration)
11.15 – 12.00 Heejeong Ko (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): The origin of 'why-in-situ'
12.00 – 12.45

Chris Reintges, Philip LeSourd, and Sandra Chung (U. of Leiden, Indiana U, and UC Santa Cruz): Movement, Wh-agreement, and apparent Wh-in-situ

12.45 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 14.45

Ricardo Etxepare & Miriam Uribe-Etxebarria (CNRS/LEHIA, EHU-UPV/LEHIA): Wh-Movement in Spanish: The Right Side of It

14.45 – 15.30 Brian Agbayani (California State University, Fresno): The Trouble with Wh-Subjects
15.30 – 16.00 Tea Break
16.00 – 16.45 Caterina Donati (Universita' di Urbino): Deriving phrasal movement
16.45 – 17.45

Akira Watanabe (U. of Tokyo): The pied piper feature

Friday December 13   (Location: Utrecht University) Drift 21
(= streetname) room 032

Workshop-day 2. Themes (i) (Successive) Cyclicity
                                      (ii) Types of wh-constructions

  9.30 – 10.00 Registration for the workshop
10.00 – 11.00 Howard Lasnik (University of Maryland): Conceptions of the Cycle
11.00 – 11.15 Coffee break 
11.15 – 12.00 Arthur Stepanov (Universitaet Potsdam): Triggering successive cyclicity in wh-movement: An 'Indirect Dependency' Solution
12.00 – 12.45 Balazs Suranyi (Utrecht University): Syntactic mechanisms and interpretation of wh-saturation in multiple wh-dependencies: Intra-linguistic variation in Hungarian
12.45 – 14.15 Lunch
14.15 – 15.15 Hans Bennis (Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam): On Binding and On Wh-movement in relatives
15.15 – 15.30 Tea Break
15.30 – 16.15 Kleanthes Grohmann (University of Cologne): Interpretive properties of Multiple wh-fronting and the syntax of multiple wh-questions
16.15 – 17.15 David Adger (University of London) & Gilian Ramchand (University of Oxford): Relativization, agreement and locality

(pre-registration required)


1. Toru Ishii (Meiji University)

On the proper treatment of relaxation of Intervention effects

2. Henrietta Yang (University of Texas at Austin)

Partial movement and multiple spellout in Punjabi relative clauses

Fact sheet:

11 December, 2002 (Wednesday) (tutorial by Maggie Browning)
12-13 December, 2002 (Thursday-Friday) 

Presentations will be 30 minutes + 15 minutes for questions, discussion, feedback.


Lisa Cheng (Leiden University, L.L.Cheng@let.leidenuniv.nl
Norbert Corver (Utrecht University, Norbert.Corver@let.uu.nl)



Editors: Rob Goedemans and Jeroen van de Weijer
Tel. 31-71-527 2101; E-mail
Last update:
11/14/02 10:09