An interpretive analysis of alternative and yes/no question in English

Pat Trainor

Abstract


This paper attempts to develop an interpretive account of the syntax and semantics of alternative and yes/no, direct and indirect, questions. The first part of the paper deals with the aspects of questions related to their propositional content. A rule which carries the presupposition (in the sense of Jackendoff (1972)) of the first conjunct of an alternative question across into the second conjunct, is developed and shown to be necessary for semantic interpretation. It is then argued that all yes/no questions have two clauses on the semantic level, and that therefore the presupposition carrying rule applies to yes/no questions as well. The remainder of the paper deals with the specifically question-related aspects of the syntax and semantics of questions. A syntactic analysis is developed which accounts uniformly for alternative and yes/no, direct and indirect, questions. The semantics incorporates into the interpretive framework the basic insights of the Montague treatment of questions in Karttunen and Peters (1976).

Keywords


Yes/no questions; wh-questions; direct questions; indirect questions; presupposition

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