Abstract

This squib provides an account of a contrast between whether and if in English, manifested in the contrast between the grammaticality of I don't know whether or not Pat will arrive and the ungrammaticality of I don't know if or not Pat will arrive. I argue that this contrast can be explained if we assume that whether can pied-pipe, but there is no pied-piping in if-questions. Strikingly, once we eliminate the pied-piping parse for whether, it behaves like if. Then I show that this contrast exists cross-linguistically: Polish alternative questions behave like whether-questions because pied-piping is possible, and Bengali alternative questions behave like if-questions because of the unavailability of pied-piping.

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