Abstract

This paper offers an account of the fact that certain verbs license wh-questions as their complement but not whether-questions. For instance, it is felicitous to say It is surprising who Bill had invited but not to say It is surprising whether Bill had invited his wife. We refer to this contrast as the *whether puzzle. We propose an account which crucially rests on the assumption that the relevant kind of verbs are sensitive to the semantic objects that their complement clause brings into salience, rather than just its truth/resolution conditions. It has been argued in previous work that the semantic objects that matrix questions bring into salience are important to understand the role of such questions in discourse. The present paper is, to the best of our knowledge, the first to argue that this aspect of meaning is also crucial for understanding the role of embedded questions in grammar.