Magda Oiry will be giving a talk, “French embedded clefts,” at the Rencontres d’Automne de Linguistique formelle in Paris on Friday, October 1. (For more information about the conference, go here.) An abstract of her talk follows.
I am arguing for the copula analysis in the cleft construction presented below produced by speakers of Spoken French:
1. Paul imagine que c’est quoi que Marie a acheté?
P. imagine that it-is what that Marie has bought
‘What does Paul believe Marie bought?’
I show that the embedded cleft is not a case of partial movement because the wh-word is base generated and the relative clause restricts its denotation. We have a real cleft in (1) which has exhaustivity and uniqueness requirements, differing in that respect from embedded wh-in situ. I will present that the construction exhibits intervention effects parallel to the ones observed with wh-in situ, and also triggers subjunctive 'spreading', raising the question of the relation between the copula and the relative clause. Finally, data from French native speakers on a forced two-choice task I will present, demonstrate that the presupposition denoted by the cleft, because embedded under a verb, can be suspended.