Hi there,

I came across this question

It is grammatically correct to ask:

'Did I [you, he/she/it/we/tyou/they] go to the park yesterday?'


I find my self to prefer 'Who went to the park yesterday?' over 'Who did go to the park yesterday?'

Given that I am not mistaken and 'Who did go to the park yesterday?' is grammatically incorrect or less preferable: Why is that?

My first thought was this:
The did-construction (did plus pronoun) indicates a question.
'Who' is an interrogative term, so it by itself indicates that the sentence at hand is a question and that's why the did-construction is not necessary.

As far as I can see, all other interrogative words take the did-construction, e.g.:

When did I go to the park?
Where did you sleep tonight?
Why did they do this?
What did we do in the park?


Whereas 'who' is an interrogative term in the subjective case, 'why', 'when', 'where', etc., although being interrogative particles, do not take any case. Rather, they specify what kind of question it is, but do not by themselves indicate that the sentence at hand is a question. Hence, the did-construction is still necessary...

But even if that is true, why does it make a difference whether or not the interrogative term takes the subjective case?

Am I barking up the wrong tree here?

This is fun, does anyone have an answer?

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Comments  (Page 2) 
Wow! Two and a half screens! [Y]
Have you considered what happens if you insist on subject-verb inversion in all questions AND insist that the question word must always be first? The two are contradictory. Placing the question word first takes precedence.

____ said that?

Who said that? (fronting who.)

Said who that? (inverting)

Who said who that? (fronting who, again?)
Said who who that? (inverting again?)

At some point in the procedure, one must stop! Emotion: smile

It seems to me that the only thing that blocks inversion is the case where inversion would move a question word away from the initial position. Otherwise, inversion always applies.

There is nothing carved in stone about "my rule". You obviously understand the concepts well enough to formulate your own series of steps as you see fit. I'm sure there are a great number of equivalent ways of explaining interrogatives as a series of transformations of declaratives.

I have heard it said (somewhere) that (theoretically) all English sentences have operators, but it is obligatory to delete the do operator (by combining it with the following verb) in statements and subject questions (except to indicate emphasis). Hence, the underlying form -- even of a statement -- is, to give an example, Lucy does go to work every day. And, after transforming this to an ordinary non-emphatic form by obligatory do deletion, it's Lucy goes to work every day.

To be completely frank with you, the subject of intonation never interested me enough to learn anything about it, so it does not interest me enough to enter into any discussion about it at this time. My apologies! Emotion: sad

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Hello, Raja,

It goes without saying that there is no blame in being a non-native speaker and a layperson in linguistic science, so you should not be troubled by that fact. What concerns me, my friend, is that you persist in advancing a number of terms and probably self-made rules which are fallacious at their very core, since they contain controversial and largely scholastic judgements about the language on a purely theoretical level (as opposed to the practical sinchronical level, with which the present forum is mostly concerned). However, let me begin from the beginning.

I don't want to argue with that, but I was interested in questions, and those, if I am not mistaken, differ syntactically from relative clauses and from nominal clauses in that in them no subject-operator-inversion takes place.’ – The truth is not as simple as it seems to be, my friend. In fact, the sentences What troubles you? and I don’t know what troubles you display identical word order, so your point here is rather fragile. In addition, though, perhaps, you are still sticking to ‘idiosyncratic’ terminology, the term ‘question’ should be reserved for the logical or semantic status of the utterance, while ‘interrogative’ should remain in the realm of grammar.

I was interested in why it is that there are those other sentences, which are questions and which do neither involve alteration of intonation nor subject-operator-inversion, but which do involve interrogative pronouns. – You’d better display more carefulness when assessing the phonetic peculiarities of interrogatives, for virtually in every type of it there is a special, exclusive combination of prehead, head, and a terminal tone (these are elements of the syntagm – intonation pattern). Again, generalizations may prove perilous.

And it seems to me that you mistook me for actually asserting what was only forwarded as a conceivable objection, i.e. when I said that 'why', 'where', 'when', etc. ought to be taken to indicate a question, I was not forwarding my own claim. On the contrary, I was voicing what I took to be a possible objection to what I had claimed earlier, an objection, however, which rested on a mistaken assimilation of the function of wh-words like 'who' and 'what' - interrogative pronouns - with other wh-words like 'why', 'where' and 'when'. – Your putting ideas in a written shape truly deserves to be called sophistic, which is brightly illustrated by this quotation. At any event, ‘a mistaken assimilation’ of the function of two groups of wh-words is a snap judgement. If you study the theses of the emergentist approach to the subject, for example, you will reveal that any of these words is basically an argument looking for the functor whose argument grid contains an unresolved dependency of the matching type. The wh-words do not indicate the type of question – if this were true, then Who saw you? and When did you see it? would have to be considered different types of question, although they are brought together by the term ‘special questions’.

I do, of course, not object against the claim that they do substitute adverbial expressions.’ – If so, then you automatically accept the view about the inadmissible use of terms such as ‘interrogative particles’, for you probably know that substitution test is a valuable tool that comes in handy when the word class needs to be defined. We could call these wh-words pro-forms for corresponding adverbs, no less and no more.

'Again, I suggested earlier that those particles rather specify the kind of question involved, not that the sentence at hand is a question. ' – In all likelihood, you should have read my previous post more carefully, because your assumption is both false regarding its first part (see above about the types of question) and illogical, into the bargain. Explaining the meaning of ‘syllogism’ is surely beyond the scope of the discussion.

���Why do we need this particular option of framing questions with interrogative pronouns and without subject-operator inversion?’ – I suppose you seek for the ultimate answer, and you are right in your quest. Here is the ultimate answer: the computational system that underlies the whole cognitive mechanism of grammar formation within the human brain.

Accepting the facts (and may I remind you that the existence of exceptions is a universally recognised linguistic fact) is far from accepting something as a result of a spiritual belief, so please do not mix the two concepts. There is, indeed, a reason for every exception, but it can only be uncovered and brought into the daylight after years of carefully studying the matter in hand.

In fact, the pronoun does not indicate that something is a question after all. Rather, that a given sentence is a question is indicated by either subject-operator inversion or, in case this is not possible, because the subject is unknown, by intonation. And the pronoun 'who' or 'what' just functions - exactly as 'where', why' or 'when' - as the signal for the missing element.’ – That’s a different kettle of fish, my friend! This was the focus of my previous post, and it seems that you are beginning to understand it, given that you now accept the wh-words as only presupposing a number of syntactic choices, and not dictating the occurrence of an interrogative clause. But for unfairly disjoining the devices for interrogation-forming (they should be seen as a whole, in system) and once again contradicting your previous statement about ‘who, what’ vs ‘where, why…’, you seem to have achieved a good grasp of the subject.

In summa: there rules for transforming declaratives into interrogatives are found galore in posts by CalifJim and your humble servant. They are clearly and adequately stated and can satisfy all those who wish to better understand the syntactic nature of English. What you are trying to inquire about transcends the borders of descriptivism and moves to the sphere of cognitive linguistics, which primarily deals with the question of why this or that phenomenon is exactly as we witness it. Lacking linguistic preparation (just as you have confessed), you are trying to elaborate on the subject with the help of a weak terminological apparatus, in all honesty. You need to specify and sharpen your linguistic tools, in the first place, and then move to more advanced areas, and the following is an explanation of the wh-question to the subject which you may find helpful after having completed initial preparation:

An opportunity for the computational system to resolve a wh-dependency

arises when it encounters a functor whose grid includes an unresolved

dependency of the appropriate type.

When this happens, both the wh-dependency and the functor's argument dependency are resolved, as are any agreement dependencies. This is illustrated for the question Who knows ? Combination of who and knows gives the wh-word an opportunity to resolve its wh-dependency by association with the verb's unresolved argument dependency, and it simultaneously gives the verb an opportunity to resolve its argument dependency and its agreement dependencies. All dependencies are therefore resolved at the first opportunity.

Based on this guideline is the rest of the interrogation-forming.

Now that we have clarified this issue, I regard it as solved.

Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff