Article

Wh-questions in Bantu languages: The case of Kinshasa Lingala

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 40, issue 1, 2020 , pages: 106–119
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2020.1733837
Author(s): Philothe Mwamba KabaseleDepartment of Linguistics, Canada

Abstract

This study investigates the syntactic configuration of wh-questions in Kinshasa Lingala (KL) with a minimalist approach. It clarifies the view on information questions which classifies Bantu languages on the basis of whether they allow movement of the wh-word or not. Unlike the findings of most research in the 1970s and 1980s on wh-questions which categorised Bantu languages’ wh-question derivations as in-situ, this article attests that KL allows both ex-situ and in-situ derivation. Internal arguments are constrained to be derived in-situ because the complementiser (C) has weak features, which cannot trigger movement. However, movement becomes possible only by the presence of the nde particle in the numeration which loads the wh-question with contrastive focus interpretation. The syntactic configuration of KL shows that the fronted wh-word in KL occupies the specifier (Spec) position of the Focus Phrase (FocP) as a result of the movement triggered by the presence of the nde particle at the head of FocP in focus-driven movement derivation. The wh-word moves because it has been attracted by the [+Foc]-feature on the head of FocP. The wh-word checks its [+Foc]-feature prior to landing at its final site, which is the Spec position of the FocP.

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