(sorry about my english, I'm not a native speaker) I'm studying syntactic trees and I'm having huge difficulties understanding the tree of the following sentence: "why do you wonder who was dismissed?" Why does the position of the complementizer C is empty and not filled with "was"? I really don't understand it. If you would be so kind to help me I'd really appreciate it.

Thank you in advance


"who was dismissed" is an embedded question. It's unembedded form would be "Who was dismissed?", so no complementizer was added to convert the independent form into the embedded form. I don't understand why "was" would ever be considered a complementizer.

  • Thank you for your answer. I've only been studying syntactic trees for a couple of weeks, so I'm still a little bit confused. I thought the C-position should have been filled with the auxiliary which moves from the Inflection position to the complementizer position. If I say "who has arrived?" this movement can be done, "has" raises and fills the complementizer position (at least this is what my lecturer said). Why can't the same movement be done with "was"? Thank you very much
    – jenny
    May 7 '15 at 13:50
  • I'm not familiar with an analysis where there is a complementizer even though there is no complement (in the independent question "who has arrived?"), and in any case, the position of "has" after the subject is not the position of a complementizer.
    – Greg Lee
    May 7 '15 at 14:03
  • I'm sorry, I make a mistake writing the wrong sentence, the sentence I was referring to was "who has bought this book?" (not who has arrived). Thank you for your explanation
    – jenny
    May 7 '15 at 14:19
  • 3
    Due to high production at MIT, theories are always shipped from there with more nodes than they actually need at the moment, so they can be used with new theories that become available in the next months. Pay no attention to empty nodes; they're soluble in oxygen, so they all disappear when the sentence is pronounced.
    – jlawler
    May 7 '15 at 14:30
  • Demonstrating @GregLee 's point with Alemannic (aka Swiss German): There you actually do have a complementizer in this configuration, which can be glossed as: "why do you wonder who that was dismissed" (warum wundrasch di wer das usighaut worden ischt)
    – purlupar
    Oct 30 '20 at 13:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.