Cross-linguistic semantics for questions

Linguistics and Philosophy 21 (1):1-82 (1998)
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: The Hamblin-Karttunen approach has led to many insights about questions in English. In this article the results of this rule-by-rule tradition are reconsidered from a crosslinguistic perspective. Starting from the type-driven XLS theory developed in Bittner (1994a, b), it is argued that evidence from simple questions (in English, Polish, Lakhota and Warlpiri) leads to certain revisions. The revised XLS theory then immediately generalizes to complex questions — including scope marking (Hindi), questions with quantifiers (English) and multiple wh-questions (English, Hindi, Japanese). Eliminating language- and construction-specific information from the compositional rules, in favor of universal semantic filters, leads to analyses that not only generalize across unrelated languages but are also empirically more accurate, not less.
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