Considering an issue: The doubt-suspect ambiguity of Mandarin huaiyi
Shumian Ye, Yiyang Guo
July 2024

The Mandarin attitude verb huaiyi exhibits ambiguity between ‘doubt’ and ‘suspect’ in different contexts. While previous research has focused on the declarative-embedding cases of huaiyi, this study offers a new observation that in addition to declarative complements, huaiyi can also select biased interrogatives as its complement. To account for the doubt-suspect ambiguity and selectional restrictions, we provide a unified semantics for huaiyi: It asserts that the agent believes the denotation of its complement is an issue on the Table (Farkas and Bruce 2010), and presupposes that the agent holds a biased belief about this issue. Based on this semantic core, the ‘doubt’ and ‘suspect’ interpretations can be derived via pragmatic reasoning. The basic idea is that if the agent considers what has been accepted as true (‘given information’) as an unresolved issue, she believes that it could be false (i.e., the ‘doubt’ reading). Conversely, if the agent considers a new possible answer to the Question Under Discussion (‘new information’) as an unresolved issue, she believes that it could be true (i.e., the ‘suspect’ reading).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/008252
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Proceedings of NELS 54
keywords: attitude verbs, selectional restrictions, biased questions, embedded questions, table, question under discussion, semantics
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