The syntax of two types of sluicing in Tamil

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    Recent analyses of sluicing focus on the underlying structure of the sluiced clause, i.e. sluicing as deriving from full-fledged wh-questions, or from reduced clefts (Ross 1969, Guess who? In Robert I. Binnick, Alice Davison, Georgia M. Green & Jerry L. Morgan (eds.), Proceedings of the Fifth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 252-286. Chicago, IL: Chicago Linguistic Society, University of Chicago; Merchant 2001, The syntax of silence. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press; Craenenbroeck, Jeroen van. 2010b. The syntax of ellipsis: Evidence from Dutch dialects. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press., inter alia). In this paper, we investigate two sluicing strategies in Spoken Tamil, namely case-marked (CM) and non-case-marked (NCM) sluicing. In addition to the morphological distinction with respect to the presence/absence of grammatical case on the wh-sluice, we argue that the two types of sluicing differ in the configuration of the underlying embedded CP. For CM sluicing, the sluiced clause is derived from a full-fledged interrogative CP at the underlying level, whereas the bare wh-sluice undergoes leftward wh-scrambling to the CP-initial position followed by TP-domain deletion at PF. While we contend that most A/A'-diagnostics are uninformative of the type of operation wh-scrambling in Tamil involves (contra Sarma 2003, Non-Canonical word order: Topic and focus in adult and child Tamil. In Karimi Simin (eds.), Word order and scrambling, 238-272. Malden, Oxford: Blackwell), various properties of the CM wh-sluice (e.g. scope, negation, adverb placement, multiple sluicing) can still be described by postulating that the wh-sluice involves A'-scrambling. For the second type of sluicing (NCM sluicing), the sluiced clause involves a biclausal structure formed by a normal sentence and a null copular question. We claim that the NCM wh-sluice is derived from Spad (Sluicing Plus A Demonstrative), since the null copular question can be accompanied by a demonstrative, cf. English 'John met someone, who is that?' and Dutch spading (Van Craenenbroeck 2010b). Spad is not derived from a full-fledged interrogative CP, and therefore its wh-sluice does not involve any scrambling operation. The present analysis of Tamil sluicing refutes the claim that reduced clefts are one underlying sluicing source in Dravidian languages, and moreover invites an inquiry of whether Dravidian as a language family in the historical sense always receives a homogeneous analysis, given the immense parametric variation among branch languages. In the same vein, we contend that any claim about the 'principles' of Dravidian syntax must be supported by strong cross-linguistic evidence at the microscopic level.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)35-82
    Number of pages48
    JournalLinguistic Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 26 2018


    • Dravidian grammar
    • Tamil
    • ellipsis
    • scrambling
    • sluicing

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language


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