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Arndt Riester

Abstract

We discuss and combine representation formats for discourse structure, in particular ‘d-trees’ from QUD theory and SDRT graphs. QUD trees are derived from SDRT graphs, while changes must apply to QUD theory in order to allow for representations of naturalistic data. We discuss whether QUD s can replace discourse relations. We apply a new method for the identification of implicit Questions under Discussion (QUD s) to examples from an interview, and we address the status of non-at-issue content within our framework.

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Lauren Winans

Abstract

Some languages have two lexical items that encode disjunction and they appear to lexicalize the difference between a polar and alternative question (Haspelmath, 2007; Alonso-Ovalle, 2006). This paper offers a more in-depth discussion one such language: Egyptian Arabic. Specifically, it discusses the behavior of these lexical items outside of the polar/alternative question distinction. The data from the expanded empirical coverage is not expected under previously proposed theories. A new analysis of the lexical items is proposed within Alternative Semantics. This analysis builds on the “association” analysis proposed by Kratzer & Shimoyama (2002) for indefinites and Alonso-Ovalle (2006) for English disjunction. Under this analysis, all disjunctions introduce alternatives, but they differ in whether the proposed alternative set bound by existential closure.

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Mary Byram Washburn, Elsi Kaiser and Maria Luisa Zubizarreta

Abstract

English it-clefts are thought to be exhaustive (e.g. Chomsky 1977, Atlas & Levinson 1981, Percus 1997, É. Kiss 1998, Krifka 2008, Szabolcsi 1981, Zimmermann & Onea 2011), such that in a sentence like It was John who left, John is the only one who left. However, we report three experiments whose results indicate that it-clefts do not have to be exhaustive, but rather, the impression of exhaustivity may be a scalar conversational implicature (following Horn 1981): in a cleft such as It was John who left, listeners assume the speaker named everyone who left if they are relevant. Experiments 1a and 1b were judgment experiments, where participants rated the naturalness of nonexhaustive it-clefts as compared to fully canonical, exhaustive it-clefts (our baseline measurement for acceptable) and noncontrastive it-clefts (our baseline measurement for unacceptable). We used noncontrastive it-clefts because contrastiveness is widely agreed to involve presuppositional failure, and in case exhaustivity is a presupposition of the it-cleft as is sometimes proposed, we wanted to compare the result of violating it to the result of violating a different presupposition: contrastiveness. We found that participants rated the nonexhaustive it-clefts as more natural than the noncontrastive it-clefts, but there was no significant difference between the nonexhaustive it-clefts and the canonical, grammatical it-clefts. Participants did not reject nonexhaustive it-clefts. This is the first experimental evidence for English showing that the pre-verbal focus position is not necessarily exhaustive. In Experiment 2, we further support this result by repeating the study with insitu contrastive foci which are almost always considered to be structurally nonexhaustive (ex: Rooth 1985, Krifka 2001). We found the same pattern of results: participants did not reject the nonexhaustive foci. Exhaustivity appears to be a conversational implicature of the it-cleft.

Series:

Daniel Büring

Abstract

This paper combines a Question(-under-Discussion) account of focusing with a givenness account of prosodic demotion (‘deaccenting’). Its main tenets are, first, that all focusing is contrastive, i.e. points to a proper question – a question with contrasting answers; second, that any deviation from default stress signals focusing; there is no ‘anaphoric deaccenting’ of given elements, only contrastive focusing. Third, the question that licenses focusing need not be contextually salient, merely identifiable and relevant. Fourth and finally, where the prosodic realization of focusing requires prosodic demotion – the assignment of less-than-default stress to a constituent – that constituent must be given; a question under discussion, even if identifiable and relevant, cannot lead prosodic demotion of discourse-new elements.

The approach is couched in terms of unalternative semantics, a new method of relating stress patterns to sets of potential focal targets (‘alternatives’) which does not rely on syntactic F-marking. The overall approach is argued to successfully explain cases in which given elements fail to deaccent, in which focal backgrounds are not contextually salient, as well as, more speculatively, cases of double focus.

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Marie-Catherine de Marneffe and Judith Tonhauser

Abstract

Polar questions can be given direct answers (e.g., Do you want to eat? – No) and indirect answers (e.g., Do you want to eat? – I’m not hungry). Listeners infer positive or negative responses from indirect answers to polar questions with varying degrees of confidence (e.g., Clark 1979, Hirschberg 1985, Green & Carberry 1992, 1994, de Marneffe et al. 2009). For spoken language, the prosodic realization of the indirect answer has been speculated to provide a cue to the intended meaning of the indirect answer (Green & Carberry 1999, fn. 34). This paper presents an experiment designed to identify whether and how the prosodic realization of an indirect answer to a polar question influences the response that listeners infer from the indirect answer. The experiment explored American English listeners’ interpretations of indirect answers with scalar adjectives (e.g., She’s attractive) realized with a neutral contour (H* L-L%) or the rise-fall-rise contour (L*+H L-H%) in response to polar questions with semantically stronger adjectives (e.g., Is your sister beautiful?). Listeners inferred significantly more negative responses to the polar questions when the indirect answer was realized with the rise-fall-rise contour than with the neutral contour. These findings show that the prosodic realization of an indirect answer can provide a cue to the speaker’s intended meaning. The paper also discusses implications of our findings for scalar implicature generation and the meaning of the rise-fall-rise contour.

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Klaus von Heusinger, Malte Zimmermann and Edgar Onea

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Malte Zimmermann, Klaus von Heusinger and Edgar Onea

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Scott AnderBois

Abstract

A longstanding puzzle in the semantics/pragmatics of questions has been the subtle differences between positive (e.g. Is it …?), low negative (Is it not …?), and high negative polar questions (Isn’t it …?). While they are intuitively ways of asking “the same question”, each has distinct felicity conditions and gives rise to different inferences about the speaker’s attitude towards this issue and expectations about the state of the discourse. In contrast to their non-interchangeability, the vacuity of double negation means that most theories predict all three to be semantically identical. In this chapter, we build on the non-vacuity of double negation found in inquisitive semantics (e.g. Groenendijk & Roelofsen (2009), AnderBois (2012), Ciardelli et al. (2013)) to break this symmetry. Specifically, we propose a finer-grained version of inquisitive semantics – what we dub ‘two-tiered’ inquisitive semantics – which distinguishes the ‘main’ yes/no issue from secondary ‘projected’ issues. While the main issue is the same across positive and negative counterparts, we propose an account deriving their distinctive properties from these projected issues together with pragmatic reasoning about the speaker’s choice of projected issue.

Series:

Annika Herrmann, Sina Proske and Elisabeth Volk

Abstract

Sign languages apply different means to mark focus and other information structural notions. So-called question-answer pairs are one of these options to highlight constituents. Based on a recent debate on the syntactic analysis of question-answer pairs as a sentential unit in American Sign Language, we discuss their syntactic structure and present two empirical studies comparing possible positions of wh-words in wh-questions and question-answer pairs in German Sign Language (DGS). In wh-questions of DGS, wh-words may appear sentence initially, sentence finally, and doubled in sentence initial and final position, with a tendency of an unmarked final position. Question-answer pairs in DGS exhibit a specific nonmanual marking and show no clear restrictions with respect to the choice of wh-words. Wh-doubling, which is generally used for emphasis in regular wh-questions, is also possible in question-answer pairs in DGS, but more marked than the initial and the default final wh-word position. On these grounds, we argue against Wilbur’s (1996) wh-cleft account and follow a pragmatically modified version of Caponigro & Davidson’s (2011) analysis as complex declarative clauses to account for question-answer pairs in DGS.

Series:

Edgar Onea and Malte Zimmermann

Abstract

Recently, questions have become a very prominent topic at the semantics-pragmatics interface. A wide range of papers on the semantics and pragmatics of natural language as well as discourse structure have been published that – in some way or another – use or presuppose important assumptions about questions. With this background, this paper provides a comprehensive overview of the recent literature concerning the semantics and pragmatics of questions. In particular, the paper provides a short introduction to the formal semantic analysis of questions and it gives an overview and critical evaluation of the main topics of current research on questions at the semantics-pragmatics interface. The central purpose of this overview is to make it easier for readers to access current research on the semantics and pragmatics of question, information structure and discourse structure, projection and at-issueness as well as the semantics and pragmatics of discourse particles, and to situate these within the current state-of-the-art in question research. We expect this overview to be of particular use to scholars new to the field, but because of its wide coverage of empirical phenomena and analytical tools, the overview should provide useful for experts in the field as well.