Gregor Williamson (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

The Syntax and Semantics of Wh-infinitivals

Questions and facts can be reported using non-finite clauses with a wh-word at the front. The examples below give instances of this type of clause underlined.

1)         John asked where to go.

2)         John knows where to go.

These clauses have no overt Tense or Modal markings and they feature no overt subject. Nonetheless, speakers have clear judgements with respect to the possible interpretation of these clauses. For example, (1) above could be used to report John saying one of the sentences in (3), but not those in (4).

3)         Where should I go?

Where must we go?

Where would one go (if…)?

4)         Where may David go?

Where can I go?

Where will they go?

Similarly, (2) can be used to report John knowing the propositions in (5), but not those in (6).

5)         I should go home

We must go home

One would go home (if…)

6)         David can go home

I can go home

They will go home

My research will investigate what syntax and semantics we must minimally assume in these structures in order to derive the interpretations in (3,5) while ruling out the unattested interpretations in (4,6).

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