Non-informative assertions The case of non-optional wh-in-situ

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María Biezma


This paper focuses on inquisitive information-seeking utterances with non-fronted wh-words and declarative word order, which I dub wh-declaratives (WhDec), e.g., the party is where? Though they have not received much attention in the literature, they present an interesting theoretical puzzle: despite looking like declaratives syntactically, they receive an inquisitive interpretation, and yet they are not always interchangeable with (canonical) wh-interrogatives (WhQs). In this paper I use WhDecs as a window to explore how, by taking into account the interaction between semantics, discourse structure and dynamic updates, we can derive subtle interpretational differences while keeping the overall interpretation true to form. The paper also addresses the interaction of sentential force and prosody, extending the discussion of WhDecs to rising declaratives and examining the contribution of the nuclear contour in the construction of meaning. Along the way, I build on previous literature to provide a semantics for WhQs and WhDecs that bridges to pragmatics explaining the contextual dependence of the so-called existential presupposition in questions.

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María Biezma, UMass Amherst

Linguistics Department; Spanish and Portuguese Department UMass Amherst