The French question particles ça and donc: a corpus study

TitleThe French question particles ça and donc: a corpus study
Publication TypeArticle de revue
Année de publication2021
AuthorsAnastasiia, Smirnova, and Anne Abeillé
JournalLinguistic Research
Start Page239

We study two question particles (donc and ça) in a large French corpus. We show that they are specialized for direct questions, and that wh-ça is possible both in situ and in fronted position, contrary to previous literature (Cheng and Rooryck 2001). We also show that ellipsis is the most common use of wh-ça, with sluicing (Ross 1969) and a new construction that we call wh-stripping, while fronting is the most common use of wh-donc. In many examples, a non-elliptical question would be impossible or quite different, which seem to cast doubt on a deletion under identity approach of sluices (Ross 1969) and to favor a Direct Interpretation approach (Ginzburg and Sag 2000).
Looking at the preceding context, in about half of wh-ça and wh-donc sluices, the wh-word has a correlate, and in the majority of cases, the correlate is definite. We suggest that the particle ça favors elliptical reprise requests, compared to bare wh-words, while the particle
donc favors biased questions.