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Wh-island is the extraction island created by an embedded sentence which is introduced by a wh-word.


The complement of wonder in (i)b is a wh-island. The contrast with (i)a serves to show that it is the wh-element to whom which blocks the extraction of what.

(i) a   what did you think [Bert gave t to Bobje]
    b  *what did you wonder [to whom Bert gave t t]

The ill-formedness of (i)b is usually explained as a Subjacency violation. In the Minimalist Program, wh-islands are analyzed as an effect of the Minimal Link Condition.



  • Chomsky, N. 1986b. Barriers, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding, Foris, Dordrecht.
  • Chomsky, N. 1964. Current issues in linguistic theory, Mouton, The Hague.
  • Ross, J.R. 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax, doctoral dissertation, MIT (published as 'Infinite syntax!' Ablex, Norwood (1986)).
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