Relativized Exhaustivity: Mention-Some and Uniqueness
Yimei Xiang
April 2022

Wh-questions with the modal verb can admit both mention-some (MS) and mention-all (MA) answers. This paper argues that we should treat MS as a grammatical phenomenon, primarily determined by the grammar of a wh-interrogative. I assume that MS and MA answers can be modeled using the definition of answerhood (Fox 2013) and attribute the MS/MA ambiguity to structural variations within the question nucleus. The variations are: (i) the scope ambiguity of the higher-order wh-trace, and (ii) the absence/presence of an anti-exhaustification operator. However, treating MS answers as complete answers in this way contradicts the widely adopted analysis of uniqueness effects in questions of Dayal 1996, according to which the uniqueness effects of singular which-phrases come from an exhaustivity presupposition, namely that a question must have a unique exhaustive true answer. To solve this dilemma, I propose that question interpretations presuppose ‘Relativized Exhaustivity’: roughly, the exhaustivity in questions is evaluated relative to the accessible worlds as opposed to the anchor/utterance world. Relativized Exhaustivity preserves the merits of Dayal’s exhaustivity presupposition while permitting MS; moreover, it explains the local-uniqueness effects in modalized singular wh-questions.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005322
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Natural Language Semantics (pre-copy-editing version). Final version:
keywords: interrogatives, questions, answers, mention-some, uniqueness, exhaustivity, exclusivity, free choice, modality, modal obviation, higher-order interpretations
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