Know whether and -ever free relative clauses

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Maayan Abenina-Adar


Know whether sentences and -ever free relative clauses have not been studied together, but they have similar contextual constraints. This work offers an explanation of their similarities based on well-established pragmatic principles. These constructions are proposed to evoke equally informative alternatives with stronger presuppositions, and as a consequence of Heim’s (1991) pragmatic principle of Maximize Presupposition, the use of a know whether sentence or a sentence containing an -ever free relative clause requires the presuppositions of all of its alternatives not to be satisfied. This gives rise to a variety of requirements, depending on what grammatical environment either construction appears in and how its presuppositions project. Although the modal implications of -ever free relative clauses are typically analyzed as a semantically-encoded component of their meaning, this work argues that a pragmatic explanation provides better coverage of a broad range of empirical observations.

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