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As far as I could learn through research, wh-questions in Chinese are formed by keeping the wh phrases "in situ", I mean, the wh part is not fronted (like it is in English, for instance).

Some exceptions would correspond to conjoined wh-questions, like "who did Mary see and Peter visit?".

Assuming that I got it right (and please correct me if I didn't), is there any possible way of asking something like "which picture of himself did he take and she post?" ("he" and "himself" beeing the same person) using a fronted wh phrase in Chinese?

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  • 那一張是他的自拍照被她上傳的? 那 - which.
    – r13
    Mar 24 at 20:45
  • 3
    @r13 it's 哪, not 那 right? Mar 24 at 22:13
  • @Stumpy Joe Pete Both has the meaning of "which". But you could be more correct though.
    – r13
    Mar 24 at 22:42
  • @r13 那 is that while 哪 is which. In questions we use 哪. Mar 25 at 13:44
  • 1
    @Brian Cheung My dictionary cheated me on the definition then :) Actually, you are correct, 哪 is more proper word in an inquisitive sentence with anticipation for a definitive answer.
    – r13
    Mar 25 at 16:05
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Tl;dr: Placement depends on whether the wh-word is the subject or object of the sentence, and whether emphasis is intended.

  1. Given both Chinese and English follow the SVO structure (hence their comparability), fronting in English (or the in-situ-ness of Chinese) is best observed when the wh-word is the object of the sentence:
Wh-word Chinese English
Subject a. 偷了蘋果? Who stole the apple?
Object b. 瑪莉看見了 Who did Mary see?
  1. In Chinese, it is unideal when there are two doer-action pairs in a single sentence. For simplicity, let us consider Which picture he took did she post? instead (the she–post part is still grammatically identical to the original sentence - no loss of generality). Now following the logic in 1., since which picture he took is the object, shouldn't that be placed at the end of the sentence? Yes and no, depending on whether emphasis is intended. Therefore,
Emphasis Chinese English
a. 她發佈了哪張他拍的照片呢? Which picture he took did she post?
+ b. 哪張他拍的照片她發佈了呢? Which picture he took is the one she posted?
  1. In fact in sentence 2b. (both Chinese and English), the picture has become the subject. Also, notice how the 是~的 has been insidiously added in sentence 2b. That is precisely for emphasis. Without it, the sentence would sound awkward. (In fact, to aid your understanding, you may consider 哪張他拍的照片是她發佈了的*照片*呢?: the analogous structure of this hidden 照片 is the one in English, which is normally omitted in Chinese.) Have a look at example 5 of this link.

  2. Of course you may argue sentence 1b. can also be phrased as 誰被瑪莉看見了?, apparently violating the in-situ rule. But technically this sentence is in the passive voice, which also changes the object of its active voice analogue () into the subject.

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Chinese is more direct and logical, not so deranged, as English.

Also, the proposed sentence is Linguistese, not really how people would say this (maybe the Irish would say it like this?).

Which picture of himself did he take and she post?

Break it down (The third line is raw English for the Chinese):

  1. She posted which photo online?
    她发布了哪张照片?
    she distributed which photo online?

  2. He took a picture of himself.
    他自拍了一张照片。
    he selfshoot a photo

  3. She posted which picture that he took of himself online?
    她[把他的哪张自拍]照发布到了网上?
    she [ba his which selfshoot photo] distribute [imagine the content of [ ] here, without 把] online?

  4. Which picture that he took of himself did she post online?
    他的哪张自拍照被她发布到了网上?
    his which selfshoot photo by her distribute online?

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