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Elliptical questions

The complementiser dat that also features prominently in another construction of paratactic ellipsis. This construction involves a reduced question which can be reconstructed from the previous discourse. An example has been given below:

Example 1

- Der hat fan 'e moarn ien skille
there has this morning one phoned
Somebody called this morning
- Wa dat?
who that
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More details can be found in Hoekstra (1993).


It seems that interrogative pronouns can be found in this construction which can also bear the complementiser clitic, that is, which occur to the right in the constituent containing them. If the interrogative pronoun is construed with a preposition, then the preposition cannot be elided in an elliptical question:

Table 1
Elliptical question Gloss With complementiser
wa dat who that wa't
wêr dat where that wêr't
wêrom dat why that wêrom't
tsjin wa dat against who that wa't
wêr dat oer what about that wêroer't
When the interrogative is not final in the constituent in which it is contained, then it cannot occur as an elliptical question nor can it be a landing site for the complementiser clitic. This is shown in the following table:

Table 2
Elliptical question Gloss With complementiser
*hokker boek dat which book that *hokker't boek, *hokker boek't
*hokker dat which that *hokker't
*hoen'en dat how.one that *hoe'nen't
*hoe heech dat how high that *hoe't heech, *hoe heech't
The odd man out is the word wat what. It is not clear whether wat has a clitic t attached to it. It cannot be followed by dat that in elliptical questions:

Example 2

*Wat dat?
what that

However, it can be followed by oft, as the following example shows:

Example 3

Mar wat oft dat betsjutte sil foar de autonomy fan ús lân
but what COMP that mean will for the autonomy of our country
But what that will imply for the autonomy of our country

Furthermore, full complementisers can be separated from interrogative pronouns by invectives functioning as emotional intensifiers in non-elliptical clauses:

Example 4

Hy frege wa deale oft de roltsjeredens op 'e trep set hie
he asked who devil COMP the roller skates on the stairs put had
He asked who the hell had put the roller skates on the stairs

This is not possible in elliptical questions:

Example 5

*Wêrom deale dat?
why devil that
Why the hell?
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1993The Split CP Hypothesis and the Frisian Complementizer systemUnpublishedFryske AkademyLjouwert