Focus and constituent question formation in Dagbani


  • Samuel Alhassan Issah Lecturer Department of Gur-Gonja Education University of Education Winneba, Ghana



SpecFoc, focus marker, clause initial, constituent interrogatives, information profile


This paper explores how constituent interrogativization and focus play out in Dagbani, a Gur (Niger-Congo) language. I show that in the formation of constituent interrogatives, the interrogative word enters into a syntactic configuration with the focus markers kà or n depending on the grammatical role of the argument that an interrogative word substitutes for. This involves putting the interrogative word clause initially, and immediately following it with the appropriate focus marker. This distributional property of interrogative words serves as evidence in favour of my argument that focused interrogative words and focused elements share morphosyntactic parallelism. The data used in the analysis are drawn from text-based sources and some are constructed by me as a native speaker. The data are examined in line with the proposal that the variation in the positioning of interrogative words in languages can be explained by assuming that movement of interrogative words is universally triggered by [+wh] and [+focus] features, both of which are [+interpretable] and can be specified as [±strong]. I conclude that interrogative words occur in in-situ when no strong [+focus] features are introduced in the syntax, suggesting that Dagbani has both focused and non-focused interrogative words.

Author Biography

Samuel Alhassan Issah, Lecturer Department of Gur-Gonja Education University of Education Winneba, Ghana

Samuel Alhassan Issah (MPhil Tromsø) is a Lecturer in the Department of Gur-Gonja Education, University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. His research interests include, syntax and semantics of Dagbani, language documentation and linguistics and literacy.


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How to Cite

Issah, S. A. (2013). Focus and constituent question formation in Dagbani. Ghana Journal of Linguistics, 2(1), 39-62.