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From obligatory WH-movement to optional WH-in-situ in Labourdin Basque

From: Language
Volume 90, Number 1, March 2014
pp. e1-e30 | 10.1353/lan.2014.0006



In this article, we analyze the nature and origin of a new wh -question strategy employed by young speakers of Labourdin Basque. We argue that this new strategy implies a parametric change: while Basque has always been a bona fide wh -movement language, these new constructions are instances of wh -in-situ and display the syntactic and semantic properties and patterns of in-situ wh -questions in French. We analyze the emergence of this new strategy as being due to the combination of three factors: (i) the abundance of structurally ambiguous wh -questions in the primary linguistic data, (ii) the change in the sociolinguistic profile of bilingual Basque-French speakers, and (iii) an economy bias for movementless derivations.