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Title:Question Formation between the Minimalist Program and Optimality Theory
Authors:Kariema El Touny
Abstract:The purpose of this study was to investigate the construction of questions in English and Cairene Arabic (CA) using the Minimalist Program (MP) and Optimality Theory (OT) as two opposing views on how questions are formed and analyzed in both of these languages.

The dialect used in this thesis, CA, is one which is discussed briefly in the literature, only it is Egyptian Arabic (EA) that is mentioned. There aren't many references that mention CA and seldom ones that mention the optionality of wh-phrases found in it. CA as a dialect has proven to be one which is rich in its analysis of question formation. The analysis of optionality of the wh-phrase, both in MP and OT, is the contribution this researcher is trying to provide to the academic research.

The Minimalist Program and Optimality Theory are used as the methods of research. These two competing theories use different approaches in describing and analyzing question formation. The Minimalist Program relies on feature checking to account for the movement of any element in the sentence. The uninterpretable feature of one element, called the Probe, needs to be checked by another element, called the Goal. A way of checking this feature comes in the form of movement of the Goal to a position where it can get into a checking relation with the Probe.

Optimality Theory focuses on the satisfaction of high-ranked constraints in a typology that is language-specific. Every sentence used grammatically in any language is the winning candidate in a competition aimed at choosing that optimal form. The criterion used is a set of constraints; these constraints are ranked in a typological hierarchy that changes cross-linguistically. The constraints are general and universal. If one constraint is low-ranked, it can be violated by the winning candidate and the status of the optimal form's integrity is not compromised. As long as the higher-ranked constraint(s) are satisfied, then any violation of lower-ranked constraint(s) is tolerable within standard OT analysis.

The thesis is divided into three chapters, and a conclusion. Chapter one is the introduction where a short history of both theories is given along with their structure and respective components in details. Chapter two discusses question formation in the Minimalist Program. In this chapter, English and Cairene Arabic are the main languages of analysis. Every type of interrogatives in both of these languages is analyzed and trees are drawn when needed. Examples from Iraqi Arabic and Hindi are introduced. Chapter three begins with a detailed account of the steps taken to achieve an OT analysis. It then discusses the optimality-theoretic approach to question formation. Also, English and Cairene Arabic are the main languages of analysis; tableaux of the competitions are drawn when needed. The final section is the conclusion where the results of this research study are provided. At the end of the thesis, there are the references.
Type:Paper/tech report
Area/Keywords:Syntax, The Minimalist Program, Optimality Theory, WH-Movement, Question Formation, Cairene Arabic
Article:Version 1