Nicole Dehé & Yordanka Kavalova
The syntax, pragmatics and prosody of parenthetical what.
In English Language & Linguistics 10(2): 289-320.

This paper contributes to the discussion of parentheticals. It focuses on a specific one-word parenthetical in English, namely what. To account for its distributional behaviour we offer a multi-faceted approach. Specifically, our study explains why parenthetical what strongly prefers the position immediately preceding a numeral. In this respect, we identify three key questions which can only be answered collectively by looking into its syntactic properties, semantic and pragmatic motivation, and prosodic characteristics. While syntax accounts for parenthetical what being attached to the node that dominates the numeral, pragmatics takes care of its position immediately preceding the numeral, and prosody explains the unacceptability of what in sentence-initial position. In this way, this study supports the idea that to fully account for the behaviour of parenthetical structures, the phenomenon should not be restricted to a single component of the grammar. The strength of the present approach also lies in the authenticity and amount of data we used.

[back]