Interpreting Questions with Non-Exhaustive Answers

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Interpreting Questions with Non-Exhaustive Answers

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Title: Interpreting Questions with Non-Exhaustive Answers
Author: Xiang, Yimei
Citation: Xiang, Yimei. 2016. Interpreting Questions with Non-Exhaustive Answers. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: This dissertation investigates a variety of issues on question semantics, especially the interpretations of mention-some questions, multiple-wh questions, and questions with quantifiers.

Chapter 1 discusses some basic issues on question semantics. I define question roots as topical properties, which can supply propositional answers and nominal short answers. But distinct from traditional categorial approaches, I treat wh-items as existential quantifiers, which can be shifted into domain restrictors. Moreover, I argue that the quantificational domain of a plural or number-neutral wh-item is polymorphic: it consists of not only individuals but also generalized conjunctions and disjunctions.

Chapter 2 and 3 are centered on the interpretations of mention-some questions. Showing that the availability of mention-some should be grammatically restricted, I attribute the mention-some/mention-all ambiguity to structural variations within the question nucleus. The variations include (i) the scope ambiguity of the higher-order wh-trace and (ii) the absence/presence of a null dou. Further, I solve the dilemma between uniqueness and mention-some by allowing the short answers to be interpreted with wide scope.

Chapter 4 investigates the role of false answers in interpreting indirect questions. I focus on the following two facts: first, FA-sensitivity is involved in interpreting mention-some questions; second, FA-sensitivity is concerned with all types of false answers, not just those that can be complete. These facts challenge the current dominant view that FA-sensitivity is derived by exhaustifications.

In Chapter 5 and 6, I turn to multiple-wh questions and questions with quantifiers.

Chapter 5 presents a function-based analysis for the pair-list readings of multi-wh questions. Crucially, contra the dominant view, I argue that these readings are NOT subject to domain exhaustivity. Chapter 6 explores two approaches to quantifying-into question effects, namely a higher-order question approach and a function-based approach. Both approaches manage to treat quantifying-into question as regular quantification.

Chapter 7 presents a uniform treatment for the seemingly diverse functions of the Mandarin particle dou. I argue that dou is a pre-exhaustification exhaustifier that operates on sub-alternatives. This chapter provides a baseline theory for the derivation of disjunctive mention-all.
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