This paper focuses on subject extraction in Māori, the indigenous Polynesian language
of New Zealand. Māori has a range of verbal and non-verbal predicate constructions.
I argue that, whilst subject topicalisation is generally permitted in all constructions,
subject questioning is restricted (see Bauer 1993; 1997). More specifically, I claim that subject questioning is permitted in verbal and
prepositional predicate constructions, but prohibited in nominal predicate constructions,
all else being equal (see also de Lacy 1999). I adopt and defend a cleft analysis of questions according to which the questioned
constituent is the matrix predicate phrase and the matrix subject is a headless relative
clause (Bauer 1991; 1993; 1997). I propose that the restriction on subject questioning results from intervention
in this headless relative clause. I argue that the C head probes for a nominal feature
rather than a traditional Aʹ-feature. Consequently, nominal predicate phrases intervene
with Aʹ-movement of the subject, whilst verbal and prepositional predicate phrases
do not. My analysis suggests that Aʹ-movement is generally triggered using nominal
features in Māori. I discuss this proposal from an emergentist perspective, i.e. one
where formal features are not innately pre-specified but rather emerge during language
acquisition guided by the Third Factor cognitive bias to “Maximise Minimal Means”
(Biberauer 2017; Biberauer & Roberts 2015; 2017).