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There are some analyses that argue that wh-fronting is driven by a strong interrogative feature on the wh-word. However in echo questions, the wh-word does not move and stays in position. "What did he say?" "He said what?" How does the wh-word remain in position if there is a strong interrogative feature on it?

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  • I don't know the actual answer, but I suspect they put different features on the wh-word used in echo questions. Note that echo questions always need to put a strong prosodic stress on the wh-word, while fronted questions don't: "what did he say?" "what did he say?" "what did he say?" but *"he said what?" *"he said what?"
    – Draconis
    Oct 31 at 16:35
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    One proposal is Sobin, Nicholas. “Echo Questions in the Minimalist Program.” Linguistic Inquiry 41, no. 1 (2010): 131–48. jstor.org/stable/40606831.
    – Alex B.
    Oct 31 at 17:51

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