Uninquisitive questions
Tom Roberts
June 2023

The sort of denotation a sentence is assigned is typically motivated by assumptions about the discourse function of sentences of that kind. For example, the notion that utterances which are functionally inquisitive (asking a question) suggest denotations which are semantically inquisitive (expressing the multiple licit responses to that question) is the cornerstone of interrogative meaning in frameworks like Alternative Semantics (Hamblin, 1973) and Inquisitive Semantics (Ciardelli et al., 2018). This paper argues that at least some kinds of questions systematically do not involve utterances with inquisitive content, based on novel observations of the Estonian discourse particle ega. Though ega is often labeled a ‘question particle’, it is used in both assertions and questions with sharply divergent discourse effects. I suggest that the relevant difference between assertive and questioning uses of ega is not semantic or sentence type-related, but rather reflects an interaction between a unified semantics for declaratives ega- sentences and different contexts of use. I then show that if we assume that ega presupposes that some aspect of the discourse context implicates the negation of ega’s prejacent, and that it occurs only in declarative sentences, we can derive its interpretation across a range of contexts: with the right combination of ingredients, we can ask questions with semantically uninquisitive sentences.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/007892
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Inquisitiveness Below and Beyond the Sentence Boundary
keywords: questions, inquisitivity, estonian, question particles, biased questions, semantics-pragmatics interface, pragmatics, semantics, semantics
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