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 the pied-piping parse for whether is eliminated, it behaves like if. Then I show that this contrast exists crosslinguistically: Polish alternative questions behave like whether-questions because pied-piping is possible, and Bengali alternative questions behave like if-questions because pied-piping is not possible.
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April 19 2021
Why *if or not but ✓whether or not
Online Issn: 1530-9150
Print Issn: 0024-3892
© 2020 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Linguistic Inquiry 1–14.
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Danfeng Wu; Why *if or not but ✓whether or not. Linguistic Inquiry 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/ling_a_00410
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