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  • A wh-expression without wh-movement, where the wh-word is the object of the preposition “about”:

    You are talking about what?

  • A sentence that has undergone wh-movement:

    What are you talking about?

  • ⸺with a pied-piped “about”:

    About what are you talking?

  • The entire wh-clause has gotten pied-piped. Acceptable or not?

    Talking about what are you?


Similarly (I find),

From Google search results

  • A wh-expression without wh-movement, where the wh-word is the object of the preposition “of”:

    Chills and headache are symptoms of what?

  • That above, with wh-movement applied:

    What are chills and headache symptoms of?

  • ⸺with a pied-piped “of”. Acceptable or not?

    Of what are chills and headache symptoms?

  • The entire wh-clause has gotten pied-piped. Acceptable or not?

    Symptoms of what are chills and headache?


Here’s the question⸻

What exactly determines what can be pied-piped and what cannot in wh-movement?


  • By “pied-piping,” I mean it in the linguistic sense. “A wh-word taking adjacent words together when moved.”
  • I’ve come from ELL as my question was told to be esoteric for the website.
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  • @Konstantin: Please don't cross-post. If the ELL community thinks your question should be asked here [or even on Linguistics] instead, then the question can be migrated from ELL to its new home. Delays in that process can be frustrating, but that's the system we have. – Andrew Leach May 4 at 11:28
  • @AndrewLeach I’m sorry, I didn’t know the process. Should I delete this question? – Константин Ван May 4 at 11:29
  • @PeterShor I wasn’t sure if it’s idiomatic or not as I’m not a native English speaker. I thought I heard the sentence structure somewhere, but now that you tell me it’s not idiomatic, I edited the question accordingly. – Константин Ван May 4 at 11:32
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    These are interesting questions, but could you edit to ask just one question? And if you search for "pied piping barriers" I think you'll get the answer to several of your questions. Start at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wh-movement and look for "barriers." (The linguistic theory is that there are some phrasal islands that need to be moved together when they cross barriers. And some barriers are not allowed to be crossed, depending on the language.) – rajah9 May 4 at 12:06

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