Anatomy of Igbo Wh-Phrases

Jeremiah Anene Nwankwegu


The Igbo wh-phrases display interesting variable behaviours in movement, with respect to whether they move to the left peripheries of direct or embedded interrogative clauses. A question arises why, unlike the English wh-phrases, the Igbo wh-phrases cannot maintain consistent shape and behaviour across the different syntactic constructions and in the face of different movement triggers. This paper dissects the wh-phrases in Igbo with the view to showing that they are not only different in their surface shapes but also in their internal configurations. The wh-phrases divide into basic and non-basic. It is found that the basic wh-phrases have their wh-features merged not only higher in the primary trees but as the head of the maximal wh-projections whereas the non-basic ones have theirs merged lower, usually as complement of DPs. The paper argues that these differences in internal configuration determine the wh-ness of the wh-phrases and are responsible for the observed variability in response to different syntactic stimuli or wh-movement triggers in direct and indirect wh-interrogative constructions. The study explores the minimalist framework.

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