Thursday 10 March – Matthijs Westera

Speaker: Matthijs Westera (LUCL)
Title: What are questions? An English-centered, pragmatics & prosody-based perspective
Date: Thursday 10 March
Venue: Lipsius 121
Time: 16.15 – 17.30 hrs

What are questions? What are the meanings of interrogative sentences, such that speakers can rely on them for asking questions? What kinds of pragmatic constraints govern questions, analogous to what the Gricean maxims would do for assertions? And how do these issues relate to notions such as ‘declarative question’, ’embedded question’ and ‘Question Under Discussion’? A certain perspective on these issues emerged from my work on exhaustivity/scalar implicature, in which I have found that attention plays a crucial role, and English prosody. In a nutshell, asking a question amounts to drawing attention to pieces of information that you consider worth making common ground. In the talk I will make this more precise, and illustrate it by means of a number of empirical puzzles surrounding questions in English. Along the way I will revisit the notion of Question Under Discussion and reflect on the relation between unembedded and embedded questions.

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