In Malay, the wh-phrase in interrogatives remains in-situ, but may move to the left periphery of the clause.
Declarative Malay: Awak makan ayam Gloss: You eat chicken Eng: You eat chicken Wh-in-situ interrogative Malay: Awak makan apa? Gloss: You eat what Eng: What did you eat? Preposed Wh-phrase Malay: Apakah yang awak makan? Gloss: What that you eat Eng: What did you eat?
The use of in-situ wh-phrases is characteristic of conversational everyday Malay, whereas preposed wh-phrase constructions are used in more formal registers. It doesn't seem to me that the prepositioning of the wh-phrase is due to topicalisation or focus movement.
When the wh-phrase is preposed, the interrogative corresponds to a pseudocleft in English, e.g. "what was it that you ate?". The noun that the relative clause modifies is dropped.
Is this pseudoclefting transformation without the intention of putting the wh-phrase into focus common in other languages?
(The next question is based on the following tree diagrams)
Is it plausible to say that there is a zero-copula that links the wh-phrase with the relative clause in the sentence as in tree 1, or is it more plausible to say that there is no zero-copula and that the complementizer is a nominalizer (as argued by some) as in tree 2?
My take is that the complementizer is still a complementizer, not a nominalizer, due to the fact that the noun modified by the relative clause is optional. E.g.:
Malay: Apakah (benda) yang awak makan? Gloss: What (thing) that you eat? Eng: What is the thing that you ate?
In cases of predication, can there ever be no linker or copula?
This makes it enticing to say that there is the copula 'ialah', although unpronounced, in the structure. This is to serve as a linker for the wh-phrase and the nominal predicate. However, I can't find any evidence to support my claim about there being a zero-copula besides the fact that copulas are largely optional in Malay. My intuition is that tree 1 seems more plausible.
Tree 2 seems a bit strange to me because I've never seen a [+wh][-pred] wh-phrase followed by a [-wh][+pred] complementizer as in tree 2 before, but I'm not so sure about this.