Beyond SCLS: Piedmontese Interrogatives

  • Cecilia Goria
Part of the Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory book series (SNLT, volume 60)


In Piedmontese, as in most NIDs, direct questions can be expressed in a variety of ways.1 I am particularly interested in four variants of wh interrogatives, namely simple wh questions, those involving interrogative inversion, in which a bound element (ICLs) attaches to the right of the verb and those in which the wh phrase is followed by an overt complementiser (henceforth wh+che questions). These also include those instances of wh+che co-occurring with ICLs. All four strategies may or may not involve SCLs.


Interrogative Sentence Syntactic Property Functional Projection Versus Movement Illocutionary Force 
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  1. 1.
    A detailed examination of these structures has been the object of many works in the literature. See Benincà 1997, Cuneo 1997b, Goria 2000, 2002, Hulk and Pollock 2001, Munaro 1997, 2001, Parry 1998a, 1998b, 1997b, Poletto 1993b, 1998, 2000b, Poletto and Vanelli 1995; Tortora 1997, Renzi and Vanelli 1983, Rizzi and Roberts 1989, Roberts 1993b, Sportiche 1997, de Wind 1995, among others.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The reader is also referred to the works cited in the text, all of which build on Kayne and Pollock, (2001) for a recent analysis of Romance interrogatives based on the notion of remnant movement.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Note however that Parry observes that her informant from the province of Asti (Agliano) uses SCLs together with ICLs only for 3sg and 3p1 persons, while for the other persons he uses only ICLs. Further research is needed to see whether or not such a pattern should be related to syntactic properties. In the varieties of Astigiano that I have surveyed, inversion is infrequent so that it is difficult to make generalisations on the compatibility between SCLs and ICLs. Therefore, I rely on the general claim that SCLs and ICLs can usually cooccur in Piedmontese.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For the claim that ICLs have undergone a process of morphological affixation, see also Fava 1993, 1998; Poletto 2000; Sportiche 1997.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For a similar claim see among others Fava (1993) with respect to ICLs in the NIDs; Sportiche (1997) with respect to ICLs in French; Roberts (1993b) with respect to the particle -ti in colloquial French.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Adam (1987a, 1987b), Benincà (1994), Poletto (1993a), Parry (1993, 1998b), Vanelli (1998), Vanelli, Renzi, and Benincà (1985) for several diachronic discussions about SCLs and ICLs. Note that Poletto observes that it is irrelevant for her discussion whether ICLs are base generated in CP and attached to the verb after movement or the inflected form verb+ICL raises to C. However, from her analysis of the following sentence from Franco-Provençal we can only assume that she takes ICLs to be generated in CP.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ven -lo -li? Morgeux comes -interr.marker-ICL Does he come? (Poletto 2000b:64) In this structure the interrogative marker -lo intervenes between the verb and the ICL -li. Poletto’s explanation is that -lo is located in a C lower than the C hosting -li. In order to reach the latter the verb must move through the former, hence the linear order illustrated in i). In contrast, under the present view that ICLs are inflectional affixes, neither are they inserted in the derivation as separate heads adjoined to their host, nor do they head their own projection.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Benincà (1996:66) mentions a similar case, that of Venetian interrogative second-singular sis-tu areICL’ vs. the corresponding non-interrogative ti si sCL are’. Her explanation is that the -s- in si-s-tu is dropped in the non-interrogative form as the principles of syllable structure of this dialect forbids a final - s. The latter, however, is still in the underlying representation and reappears as the onset of the syllable resulting from the cliticisation of ICLs, which Benincà regards as the result of upward movement. Although strikingly similar, the case of Piedmontese described in the text differs from Venetian, as the syllable structure of Piedmontese does not forbid final -s. Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    I thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on this point.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Despite Brero and Bertodatti’s (1993) reference to an equal use of ICLs across the verbal paradigm, it is rare to find ICLs with verb forms other than present indicative or present perfect periphrasis. So far, I have found no clear patterns of variation that allow generalisations with reference to the age of the informants and special semantics. I refer however only to the varieties examined here and make no claim about other varieties.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    This view goes along with Everett’s (1996) idea that pronominal clitics and agreement affixes are in a relation of allomorphy differing only in terms of the structural position they are inserted in and their phonological realisation.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    An anonymous reviewer has raised the question as to whether a language with No [F] ranked the highest gives rise to a viable language. In principle it could, unless restrictions are postulated on the rerankability of No[F], as proposed in the literature for other constraints (Aissen 2001, among others). Empirically a language which expresses no features may not be a possibility, but this could be related to independent factors interrefering with No[F].Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    For the use of che see my preliminary suggestion based on Pesetsky (1997, 1998).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Note however that verb-ICL inversion in embedded interrogatives is a possibility in the Rovereto variety of Trentino and in some Emilian varieties (Poletto 2000a:37fn.1). However, it is uncertain whether it should be treated in the same way as inversion of main interrogatives.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Parry (1997b) mentions a pragmatic contrast between wh+che and ICLs in the Piedmontese variety of Oglianico: i) Chi ch’ a j’ an vist? ordinary question who that SCL CL- j’ have seen “Who have they seen?” ii) Chi an -ne vist? surprise who have-ICL seen “Who have they seen?” I have found no such contrast in the varieties of Piedmontese analysed in this work, and i) and ii) are the only instance that I am aware of exhibiting such a contrast in Piedmontese. I feel that further study is needed to assess the extent of productivity of such a contrast.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Note that although speakers of Roattese and Marettese consider inversion as foreign to their speech, some of them when asked to translate the Italian question in i) below, chose the inverted structure in ii): i) Hai visto tuo zio? “Have you (2sg) seen your uncle?” ii) A -ti vist to barba? have-ICL seen your uncle (GORIA 13) However, the fact that i) was the only question in the questionnaire translated by adopting inversion shows that inversion in these varieties is hardly used.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Che appears to be always optional with the exception of ion che/lu-c what’, ante’ che where’ (Parry 1997).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Exclamatives introduced by che in turn followed by a DP, as i) below, are the exception to this claim as they did not show inversion: i) Che bella prôvision t’ hai fag! that nice provision SCL have made “What a good provision you (2sg) have made!” (Parry 1998a. From Alione (early 16th c.))Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Note, however, that Parry’s claim about the economical nature of wh+che with respect to inversion should be interpreted with the general sense of the notion of economy in language. This is perhaps closer to Haiman’s (1985) ’economic motivation’ principle that speakers simplify their linguistic utterances than to the Principle of Economy central to more recent syntactic theories. In fact, Economy conditions apply to convergent derivations for a given Numeration selecting the more economical one over the others. However, wh+che structures and verb-ICL inversion are derived from different Numerations: the former, but not the latter, from a Numeration that includes the complementiser. It follows that these two structures cannot be taken to be in competition for Economy (within the recent meaning of the term Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Rizzi (2001) proposes an analysis of yes/no main questions with no verb movement. Under Rizzi’s proposal the observation made in the text about yes/no questions lacking ICLs becomes weaker. However, Rizzi’s analysis raises the question of how to account for yes/no questions with ICLs, if we assume that the latter require V to C.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Parry attributes the lack of generalised che in yes/no questions to the unavailability of che in main clauses and to the fact that in yes/no questions there is no wh-phrase to be separated from the rest of the clause for emphasis reasons. However, if, as Parry suggests, one of the functions of che is to block verb movement, there is nothing in principle that prevents a main yes/no question from being introduced by an overt complementiser, as is the case in numerous other languages (see Radford (1992:296ff.) for examples from a variety of languages of overt complementisers introducing main yes/no questions). Furthermore, Piedmontese does provide a case of an overt complementiser replacing verb movement in main clauses. Recall from chapter 3 that true Piedmontese imperatives move to C to check a strong [IMP] feature in C, whereas in suppletive imperatives, [IMP] is checked by che merged directly in CGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    I thank an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out to me.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    k The ungrammaticality of overt preverbal subjects in main interrogatives is a problem dealt with by several authors, some of whom suggest that such a restriction is not related to V to C movement. In particular, Poletto (2000b) and Barbosa (2001) claim that the ban on preverbal subject in interrogatives is due to the unavailability of SpecTP as a subject position. Poletto (2000b) proposes the subject-in-CP analysis and Barbosa (2001) the left dislocation analysis of S in SVO. Both views have been extensively argued against in chapter 3.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    See Rizzi (2001) for an observation along these lines with respect to standard Italian interrogatives.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    See Cinque (1999) for the distinction between lower’ adverbs and . sentence’or higher’ adverbs, and for a discussion on the positions of adverbial phrases.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    We have seen in chapter 3 that Poletto (2000b) adopts the obligatory clustering of SCLs to che as a criterion for claiming that these elements are both in CP. Poletto claims that the clustering is due to the fact that che is merged in a low CP and then rises to left adjoin to the relevant SCLs generated in a higher CP (cf. (74) in the text). This explanation, however, cannot be maintained for wh+che+ICL structures because che, or its trace, would block V to C movement and ICLs would not be licensed. Hence, although a straightforward rule of clustering is not provided here, I believe the observation made with respect to (46) and (47) confirms the idea that, despite overt che, SCL+V has moved to C. A possible future path to explore is that of fusion of heads under syntactic adjacency, a legitimate operation within the framework of Distributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz 1993).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    See Barbosa (2001) and Sportiche (1997) for a dissenting view.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    The Residual V2’ proposal faces the problem of accounting for the ungrammaticality of the following sentence: i) Cosa ha Mario bevuto? what has Mario drunk “What has Mario drunk?” If, as Rizzi claims, V to C movement in Italian is analogous to verb movement in V2 and English auxiliary-subject inversion, inversion as in sentence i), which is found in Medieval Romance including Piedmontese, should be expected also in the modern varieties. Barbosa (2001) takes the ungrammaticality of i) as an argument against interrogative V to C movement. However, overt subjects are not the only elements banned from appearing immediately after the auxiliary. For instance, manner adverbs such as bene, which are claimed to mark the leftmost edge of the VP (Light-vp in this framework), are also ungrammatical (Cinque 1999): (ii) Chi ha bene accolto Mario? who has well received Mario “Who has Mario received well?” Sentence ii) suggests that the ungrammaticality of i) may be unrelated to verb movement to C (see Goria 2000 for a detailed discussion on this topic).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Varying elaborations of Rizzi’s (1997) structure have been proposed by Benincà (2001), Benincà and Poletto (2001), Munaro (2001), Roussou (2000), and Rizzi (2001), among many others.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Benincà and Poletto (2001) emphasise the non-recursive property of FocusP and postulate two distinct Focus projections. These carry different type of material, informational focus and contrastive focus, and are separate from the projection(s) hosting interrogative elements. It follows that the splitting of FocusP does not help in accommodating the wh-phrase and the in Piedmontese wh+che structures.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    In this sense my proposal agrees with Parry’s account (see section 3.1.1). It differs, however, from Parry’s analysis with respect to the function of the overt complementiser in blocking verb movement.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Note that there is a difference in acceptability depending on the wh-phrase involved. A similar type of variation is also found in standard Italian.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    It is worth emphasising that the acceptability of (56) — (60) in the text provides further evidence against the copy hypothesis proposed by Poletto and Vanelli (1995), briefly mentioned in section 3.1.1.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Note that if “direct request” is the illocutionary force required for verb-ICL inversion, the omission of ICLs in (31) — (34) is predicted, given Parry’s observation that these sentences are pragmatically ambiguous. However, as pointed out before, this does not undermine the analysis put forward in this book. That is, regardless of their pragmatic value, the questions in (31) — (34) involve V to C movement, invalidating the alleged one-to-one relation between lack of V to C movement and omission of ICLs.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    An idea to explore is that ICLs are related to special intonation patterns, for instance, raising intonation, in the case of direct questions. An analysis based on the syntactic properties of an intonation morpheme is put forward by Cheng and Rooryck (2001) with respect to French wh-in-situ constructions. An extension of this idea and its application to Piedmontese interrogatives is too premature to be discussed further.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Note C4 can never really be totally empty as it must at least contain the [wh] feature necessary for wh movement as in i) from Portogruaro: i) [cP4 Cossa [C4 [,P to fa]]]? Portogruaro, Veneto-Friulan what SCL do “What do you (2sg) do?” This creates ambiguity about the weak vs. strong status of wh phrases (see below in the text for Poletto’s distinction between strong and weak wh phrases).Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    With respect to sentence i) below, Poletto (2000b:70) states: “I define this type of structure as modal because it conveys a modal meaning of possibility and can be translated with a modal verb, [...], as I am wondering what he might have done’” i) Cosa mai avrà Gianni fatto in quel frangente ? what ever will have Gianni done in that occasion ? “What will John have done on that occasion ?”Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Note that the claim that CP4 is associated with rhetorical questions clashes with Obenauer and Poletto’s (1999) view that wh phrases on rhetorical questions target a CP higher than the landing site of wh phrases in ordinary true questions.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Poletto (2000b:70 fn. 20) is unclear as to whether or not to regard main questions without ICLs as lacking V to C movement. This, however, is a significant aspect of an account of main questions affecting the way in which Piedmontese interrogatives are analysed inside the Agreement Field. In fact, only if the absence of ICLs still allows V to C movement one can postulate, as I have done in section 3.2.2, that all four strategies involve verb movement. Otherwise the structural differences between our four strategies increase.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    The CP (labelled here as CP0) placed above CPI in this structure is added by Poletto so that antè and ch do not induce violation of the Doubly Filled COMP Filter.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    This is the analysis that Poletto (2000b:70) proposes for modal interrogatives in Friulan which show che followed by a subjunctive verb. In her discussion, she also claims that this structure is paralleled in Piedmontese where it has an out-of-the-blue reading requiring an indicative verb rather than a subjunctive one.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    With specific reference to structures like (69) in the text, Poletto says nothing about the position of the wh phrase. However, given her view that wh phrases on the left of deictic SCLs are strong and therefore require an empty head, I have added CP0 as the landine site of the wh phrase.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Recall that for this type of interrogatives I have rejected the alternative explanation in (65) in the text.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cecilia Goria
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NottinghamUK

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