Lecturer: Maribel Romero, University of Konstanz
Room: 1.404
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.
Course material

Mon Aug 5th

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    Traditional compositional semantic approaches

Tue Aug 6th

Wed Aug 7th

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    WhQs: Degrees of exhaustivity

Thu Aug 8th

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    AltQs: Mapping from syntax/prosody to meaning

Fri Aug 9th

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    PolQs (and Wh-Questions): NPI licensing

Mon Aug 12th

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    Non-canonical uses I: Biased PolQs

Tue Aug 13th

Wed Aug 14th

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    Non-canonical uses II: AltQs, Bolinger’s (1978) paradigm and cornering

Thu Aug 15th

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    Non-canonical uses III: Discourse particles in German WhQs

Fri Aug 16th

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    Embedding puzzles