Subject Wh-Movement in Najrani Arabic and Minimalism

Abdul-Hafeed Ali Fakih


In this study I aim to explore the syntactic behavior of subject wh-movement in Najrani Arabic and it attempts to provide a unified account of the following questions:

1. Does Najrani Arabic allow the subject wh-phrase to undergo syntactic movement from [Spec, VP] to [Spec, IP] and then to [Spec, CP] at PF?

2. Is illi 'that' a complementizer or a relative pronoun?

3. Can the subject wh-phrase be accounted for via Focus movement? Does Najrani Arabic allow the subject-wh to move overtly to [Spec, FocusP] for feature checking?

I attempt to explore whether it is possible for the subject-wh to move overtly from [Spec, VP] to [Spec, IP] and then to [Spec, CP] at PF. This analysis postulates that illi ('that') is viewed as a complementizer which heads the head C position of CP. However, this line of argument is observed to be unsystematic because the complementizer illi 'that' constitutes an island constraint to subject wh-movement when compared to Focus movement analysis presented as an alternative. Furthermore, following Focus movement analysis in Rizzi (1997, 2001) and Gad (2011), it is proposed in the alternative analysis that illi is treated as a relative pronoun and heads the Focus projection. The subject-wh moves overtly to [Spec, Focus] for feature checking considerations. The movement is triggered by the strong Focus feature on the head illi which occupies the FocusP projection; this movement takes place before Spell-Out. Hence, it is the alternative analysis that offers a neatly unified account of illi-questions in Najrani Arabic. 

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