Why we should ever bother about wh-questions: On NPI-licensing properties of wh-questions in Swedish

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Why we should ever bother about wh-questions: On NPI-licensing properties of wh-questions in Swedish. / Brandtler, Johan.

In: Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax, Vol. 81, 2008, p. 83-121.

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Why we should ever bother about wh-questions: On NPI-licensing properties of wh-questions in Swedish

AU - Brandtler, Johan

N1 - The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Swedish (015011001)

PY - 2008

Y1 - 2008

N2 - This paper is an attempt to solve the somewhat elusive polarity item licensing properties of wh-questions in Swedish. As has been observed by Klima (1964) for English, NPIs are gener¬ally not compatible with genuinely information seeking wh-questions, but tend to induce rhe¬torical interpretations. Distin-guishing between three types of wh-questions and the kind of information they request, I will systematically review the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties of each wh-type. Based on that overview, I argue that NPI-licensing in wh-ques¬tions is dependent on the relation between the implication of exis-tence associated with the wh-word and the presupposition induced by the expressed proposition. According to my analysis, wh-words should not be regarded as NPI-licensing operators. Being place-holders, wh-words inherit whatever properties are associated with the item they replace. The licensing property of the wh-word is thus dependent on the licensing property of the referent. Thus, only wh-words referring to downward entailing expressions will license NPIs in their scope (e.g. when pointing to an empty set). Such wh-questions tend to be interpreted rhetorically.

AB - This paper is an attempt to solve the somewhat elusive polarity item licensing properties of wh-questions in Swedish. As has been observed by Klima (1964) for English, NPIs are gener¬ally not compatible with genuinely information seeking wh-questions, but tend to induce rhe¬torical interpretations. Distin-guishing between three types of wh-questions and the kind of information they request, I will systematically review the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties of each wh-type. Based on that overview, I argue that NPI-licensing in wh-ques¬tions is dependent on the relation between the implication of exis-tence associated with the wh-word and the presupposition induced by the expressed proposition. According to my analysis, wh-words should not be regarded as NPI-licensing operators. Being place-holders, wh-words inherit whatever properties are associated with the item they replace. The licensing property of the wh-word is thus dependent on the licensing property of the referent. Thus, only wh-words referring to downward entailing expressions will license NPIs in their scope (e.g. when pointing to an empty set). Such wh-questions tend to be interpreted rhetorically.

KW - polarity

KW - wh-questions

KW - negation

KW - presupposition

KW - implicature

M3 - Article

VL - 81

SP - 83

EP - 121

JO - Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax

JF - Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax

SN - 1100-097X

ER -