Syntactic Theory

Wh-movement in the Subordinate Clause

Wh-movement is also seen in subordinate clauses in English. Sentences of the kind below are sometimes called embedded questions.


a) I wonder whom he said that you had seen at the party?
b) I wonder who said had seen you at the party?
c) I wonder why he said that you went to the party

Here a problem called case-checking appears. Let us have a look at the sentences.


e)   I wonder who she thinks will come. 
f) * I wonder whom she thinks will come.

The reason that f) is ungrammatical is that objective case cannot be checked in the subject position of the lowest clause. This can be illustrated in the following way:

They [pres] wonder [CP whoi [IP she [pres] thinks [CP [IP ti will come ] ] ] ] .

A noun phrase undergoing wh- movement moves from a case-checking position to Spec(CP), a non-case-checking position.

A related difference concerns the categorial status of constituents undergoing wh- movement. Constituents undergoing subject movement or passive are noun phrases, but once undergoing wh- movement they can be maximal projections of other categories, as we have already seen. The following case provides three further examples.


g)I wonder [AdjP how experienced] they should be.
h)I wonder [AdvP how quickly] the lions will devour the wildebeest. 
i)I wonder [PP under which shell] he hid the pea. 

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