Position of Wh-Words in Kipsigis Wh-Questions


  • Chepngetich Anastasia Teacher of English and Literature, Muthambi Boys High School, Chogoria, Kenya.
  • Gatakaa Ann Hidah Kinyua Lecturer of English and Linguistics, Chuka University, Chuka, Kenya
  • Muriungi Peter Kinyua Lecturer of English and Linguistics, Tharaka University College, Kenya




Wh-in Situ; Wh-ex Situ; Partial Wh-Movement; Topicalization; Wh-fronting; Kipsigis.


The wh-parameter determines whether the wh-expression can be fronted or not. Studies on a number of languages among them English, Shona, Kiitharaka and Chinese have revealed that different languages use different ways to form wh-questions. This paper examines the positions a wh-phrase can occupy in Kipsigis, a southern Nilotic language. A descriptive research design was adopted and a structure generation exercise was used to elicit data from ten competent native speakers of Kipsigis. Data was analysed within the context of the minimalist program developed by Chomsky. The analysis revealed that Kipsigis wh-words can be found in their canonical position, a position termed in-situ. The wh-words can also be moved to the front of the matrix clause. This movement is triggered by a strong focus feature manifested by a focus marker which is always attached to the verb. The wh-words can undergo partial wh-movement where the wh-phrase moves to a position lower than its relevant position. The study also established that adjuncts remain in-situ except for the wh-phrase ‘why’ which can be fronted in addition to being found in-situ. This study contributes towards the understanding of universal and parametric linguistic features in syntactic theory.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Chomsky, N. (1993). A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory. MIT Occassional Papers in Linguistics 1. MIT Press Cambridge.
Creider,C.A (1989). The Syntax of Nilotic Languages: Themes and Variations. Dietrich Reimer, Berlin.
Jerono, P. (2012). Tugen Word Order. A Minimalist Perspective. Egalite Macedonia.
Lewis, et.al. (2016). Ethnologue: Languages of the World, nineteenth edition, Dallas, TX.
Muriungi, P.K. (2003). Wh-questions in Kitharaka. University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Mutegi, M.K. (2014). Strategies of Forming wh-questions in Gichuka. MA Dissertation, Chuka University.
Potsdam, E. &Polinsky, M. (2011). Questions and Word Order in Polynesean. Topics in Oceanic Morphosyntax, pages 121-153.
Radford, A. (2009). Analyzing English Sentences. A Minimalist Approach. Cambridge University Press, New York..
Sabel, J. (2000). Partial Wh-movement and the Typology of Wh-questions. In Wh-Scope Marking, 404-449. John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
Saddy, D. (1991). Wh-Scope Mechanism in Bahasa Indonesia. MIT Working Papers in Linguitics 15.MIT Press, Cambridge.
Toweet, T. (1975). Kalenjin Nouns and their Classification. UoN, Unpublished M.A Dissertation.
Vermaat, W. (2006). The Logic of Variation. A Cross Linguistic Account of Wh-question Formation. Landelijke Onderzoek school Taalwetenschap.
Yip, M. (2002). Tone. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Zents, J. (2016). Forming Wh-questions in Shona. A Comperative Bantu Perspective. Phd Dissertation, Yale Univeristy.




How to Cite

Anastasia, C., Hidah Kinyua, G. A., & Kinyua, M. P. (2020). Position of Wh-Words in Kipsigis Wh-Questions. SMART MOVES JOURNAL IJELLH , 8(6), 77-106. https://doi.org/10.24113/ijellh.v8i6.10632