Lecturer: Maribel Romero, University of Konstanz
The internal semantic composition and final utterance meaning of questions has, over the years, raised non-trivial issues concerning the syntax/prosody/semantics interface and the division of labor between at-issue content, non-at-issue content and pragmatic processes. This course provides a critical overview of some of these issues. We start with an introduction to the compositional semantics of questions in traditional approaches. Then, we zoom into the three main interrogative clause types – namely, Wh-Question (WhQs), Alternative Questions (AltQs) and Polar Questions (PolQs) – and present, for each of them, one problem currently under debate, including degrees of exhaustivity, the interaction of syntactic and prosodic cues in the construction of meaning, and the licensing of Negative Polarity Items (NPIs). Next, moving away from purely information-seeking uses, we inspect what non-canonical questions reveal about meaning composition and discourse pressures. We will examine epistemic bias in PolQs, illocutionary range and cornering effects in AltQs and the role of discourse particles in German WhQs. Finally, we present puzzles on questions embedded under attitudes, such as the *surprise+whether puzzle and the admit+*if/✓whether puzzle.