On Wh-questions in Persian

Arsalan Kahnemuyipour
(2001). Canadian Journal of Linguistics 46(1/2): 41-61.

This article explores wh-questions in Persian and examines how the “clausal typing hypothesis” and the “focus-fronting analysis” fare with respect to Persian wh-questions. It is shown that Persian wh-questions involve obligatory movement of wh-phrases to a preverbal focus position. This movement is different from syntactic wh-movement in that it does not involve movement of the wh-phrase to [Spec, CP], whose trigger is a [+wh] feature in C. Thus, in terms of the typology of wh-questions, Persian is neither a syntactic wh-movement nor a wh-in-situ language; rather, it should be classified with languages such as Aghem, Basque, Hungarian, Kirundi, and Serbo-Croatian, in which wh-phrases have been argued to undergo focus movement. It is shown that Persian does not seem to share the properties of Serbo-Croatian, another focus-fronting language. Some possible explanations are provided and the theoretical implications are discussed.