Thursday, September 13, 2012

wh-movement in Ancient Greek

Last week for school, I wrote a terribly flawed paper about wh-movement in Ancient Greek. There are two problems.

First, I was limited to questions about the direct object. A necessary operation when most students are writing about English. Subject questions don't display much wh-movement in English. I had to throw out a lot of potential data points. I would have killed to find a question like this
poi-on     su    cyon.a akou.eis
what.sort you dog
What sort of dog do you hear?
Something relatively simple that showed strong wh-movement. I found one (sentence 1 on the paper), but it was complex. The qu-word related to a direct object alright, but the direct object of a participle. Probably not my hour of glory.

The other problem is that a lot fo the data looked like this
ti       ph-─ôs
What are you saying?
Now this looks like wh-movement to me, but I'm a native English speaker. After all, the ti is the first word, how isn't is wh-movement? My intuitions probably aren't right here. But at the same time, I can't shake the feeling that Ancient Greek shows wh-movement even if it doesn't look like it.

The problem is that a speaker of a language that is 1) pro-drop (like Ancient Greek) 2) uses  SOV order (like Ancient Greek can) and 3) leaves interrogatives in situ may see things quite differently. As in anyone who speaks Persian. To them, most of my data points would appear to be in-situ questioning.

All I can say is this: Dammit. Why hadn't I thought of that sooner?