Pied-piping With Inversion - Introduction


The phenomenon was first named and identified as an areal characteristic of the Mesoamerican linguistic area in Smith Stark (1988). Some sources also refer to pied-piping with inversion as "secondary wh-movement".
The phenomenon can be described as follows:

  • the language has Wh-movement.
  • the language has pied-piping. That is, when certain words undergo wh-movement, not only the interrogative word, but the phrase which contains this word moves.
  • the word order within the pied-piped phrase is different from the order of ordinary phrases.

The following examples from San Dionisio Ocotepec Zapotec illustrate the phenomenon. As the following example shows, a possessor normally follows the noun that is possessed in this language (Broadwell 2001):

1) Cù’á Juààny .
com:grab Juan p-dog Mary
‘Juan grabbed Mary’s dog.’
*Cù’á Juààny .
com:grab Juan Mary p-dog

If the possessor is questioned, then the whole noun phrase must pied-pipe to the beginning of the sentence. However, the order of the initial phrase must have the possessor before the possessed:

2) ¿ cù’á Juààny?
who p-dog com:grab Juan
‘Whose dog did Juan grab?’
* ¿ cù’á Juààny?
p-dog who com:grab Juan

The difference in order between the noun phrases in (1) and (2) illustrates pied-piping with inversion. (1) shows the ordinary order in which the noun is the first element of the noun phrase; (2) shows the inverted order found in the pied-piped noun phrase.

The following examples from Tzotzil (Aissen 1996) show the same process:

3) I-cham -e
com-die A3-child the Xun-enc
‘Xun’s child died.’
4) i-cham?
who A3-child com-die
‘Whose child died?’

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