We are happy to announce a talk by Andreas Pankau (Freie Universität Berlin) in the Historical Linguistics Colloquium.

Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Room: IG 2.301

Time: 2 pm – 4 pm ct

Title: „The syntactic representation of ADDRESSEE – evidence from wh-drop in Berlin German“


Many German dialects allow a curious type of wh-question, namely one where the wh-phrase is absent. The classical approach to such wh-questions can be found in Bayer (2010) and Pankau (2020). They both assume that a wh-phrase was present at some stage of derivation, but that it gets elided after having been moved to SpecCP. Hence the name for this type of wh-question, wh-drop. In this talk, I want to challenge this approach with novel data from Berlin German. Based on the syntactic properties of wh-drop, I first argue that neither a wh-phrase nor wh-movement are ever present in wh-drop. Instead, what moves is an empty operator and the movement it undergoes is most likely some form of scrambling. Secondly, wh-drop is subject to specific pragmatic conditions that are not found in regular wh-questions. In particular, wh-drop requires an addressee that is identical to the intended recipient of the utterance (cf. McCawley 1999 for the notion ‘intended recipient’). Addressees are not necessarily identical to the intended recipient, so I thirdly argue that an operator sits in SpecCP that encodes this requirement. Since SpecCP is already occupied, this position cannot be targeted by movement.