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Title:A Markedness Subhierarchy in Syntax: Optimality & Inversion in Spanish
Authors:Eric Bakovic
Comment:Shorter version published in P. Barbosa et al. (eds.), Is the Best Good Enough? Optimality and Competition in Syntax, MITWPL and MIT Press, 1998.
Abstract:In this paper, inversion (verb-subject word order, seen as head movement) in Spanish wh-questions is shown to be conditioned by two factors that vary from speaker to speaker (based on introspective judgment survey data collected by the author): (i) the "argument-hood" of the wh-phrase (a subcase of which was first noted by Torrego 1984), and (ii) whether the wh-question is direct (matrix) or indirect (subordinate). I propose an OT analysis of this variation, expanding on the work of Grimshaw (1997).

I argue that Grimshaw's OP-SPEC constraint ("syntactic operators must be in specifier position") must be decomposed into a universally-ranked subhierarchy of constraints defining a relational scale of different types of wh-phrases: arguments (quién 'who', qué 'what'), spatio-temporal locations (dónde 'where', cuándo 'when'), manners (cómo 'how') and reasons (porqué 'why'). The possible interactions that the members of this subhierarchy can have with constraints on movement are the source of the first observed conditioning factor on inversion: if less argument-like wh-phrases must be in specifier position and thus require inversion (= more movement), then more argument-like wh-phrases will also.

Grimshaw distinguishes a general constraint on movement (STAY) and another specifically prohibiting movement into the head of a subordinate clause, building on Rizzi & Roberts (1989) and McCloskey (1992). This distinction is the source of the second observed conditioning factor on inversion: if inversion is require in a subordinate clause with a particular type of wh-phrase, then it will also be required with the same type of wh-phrase in matrix clauses.
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1