Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Robert Truswell:( University of Edinburgh ) /Which/-hunting in Medieval England

Indo-European languages have repeatedly undergone processes of
endogenous change whereby interrogative phrases come to be used as
relativizers in headed relatives. Such constructions were probably
absent from Proto-Indo-European, and are very rare in non-IE languages.
This leads us to ask what is special about Indo-European languages, to
allow this typologically rare construction to emerge so frequently. In
this talk, I outline a corpus-based case study of the emergence of
which-relatives in Middle English, and identify factors which may help
explain the typological distribution of this construction.