Invitation - Towards a Uniform Semantics for Question Embedding

1 June, 2020


Dear Linguists,

All are invited for out next zoom talk titled “Towards a Uniform Semantics for Question Embedding”, which will be given by Danny Fox (MIT), on Tuesday June 2nd, 14:30-16:00 (see abstract below).

Meeting ID: 966 3754 7525
Password: 368196

See you!


Towards a Uniform Semantics for Question Embedding

Danny Fox, MIT

A general theory of the grammatical representation of questions should yield mental objects that meet at least two empirical desiderata: they should be appropriate for the characterization of usage conditions (the pragmatics of questions) and for the semantics of question embedding (semantic compositionally). But these two desiderata conflict in interesting ways. While partitions provide the right kind of object for the characterization of the pragmatics of questions (Groenendijk and Stokhof, Lewis), they do not provide the right denotation to account for the semantics of question embedding (Berman, Heim and much subsequent work). This conceptual challenge is accompanied by the empirical challenge of accounting for the different types of schemas that have been identified for question embedding, in particular, “strong exhaustivity”, “weak exhaustivity” and “intermediate exhaustivity”. In this talk I will suggest that a trivalent definition of the exhaustivity operator (argued for by Bassi, Del Pinal and Sauerland) provides a way to deal with both of these challenges. Applying the operator to each member of the question denotation, provides the required partition, as I’ve tried to argue in recent work. Here I will argue that once the trivalent definition is adopted, independent observations about presupposition projection yield the different types of exhaustivity that are identified in different environments. This also ends up addressing an important challenge to the reducibility thesis of question embedding, e.g. to the claim that knowing a question, for example who is in the room, is nothing other than knowing a particular proposition — the answer to the question.