Volume 17, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1384-5845
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1171


Question formation in French involving Subject Inversion may not affect indefinite subjects. This property – dubbed the counter-indefiniteness effect – is explained by integrating a Topic Phrase in syntax (Kayne & Pollock 2001). We show that this effect is also present in wh-questions in Dutch. In Dutch, the effect is independent of word order, but can be observed by taking into account the presence or absence of presentational er: the counterindefiniteness effect occurs in wh-questions in which er is present alongside a wh-word functioning as an internal argument. For the Topic Phrase we build a link with independent proposals by Bennis (1986) – the double (in)definiteness effect in Dutch - and Koeneman (2000), who proposes that er is related to empty presupposition sets. We elaborate our proposal in terms of the current generative formalisms (for Dutch e.g. Zwart 1997 and Broekhuis 2008). A semantic/pragmatic formulation of the effect would be that a question should not introduce an entity in discourse and simultaneously ask for other information about this entity.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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