21.3412, Diss: Semantics: Shimelman: 'Questions and Quantifiers'

Wed Aug 25 18:25:55 UTC 2010

LINGUIST List: Vol-21-3412. Wed Aug 25 2010. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 21.3412, Diss: Semantics: Shimelman: 'Questions and Quantifiers'

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Date: 24-Aug-2010
From: Aviva Shimelman < nomdecrayon at gmail.com >
Subject: Questions and Quantifiers

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2010 14:22:10
From: Aviva Shimelman [nomdecrayon at gmail.com]
Subject: Questions and Quantifiers

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Institution: Université Laval 
Program: Department of Languages, Linguistics, and Translation 
Dissertation Status: In Progress 
Degree Date: 0 

Author: Aviva Shimelman

Dissertation Title: Questions and Quantifiers 

Dissertation URL: 

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Dissertation Director(s):
Claudia Borgonovo
Bernhard Schwarz
Donka F. Farkas
Manuel Espanol-Echevarria

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation looks at quantified questions ('QQs') and, specifically, at
Pair-List readings, Weak Islands and Intervention Effects ('PLRs', 'WIs' and
'IEs'). In many cases, we observe that there are constraints on the
interpretation of QQs that are irreducibly linguistic. Although no logical or
pragmatic constraint precludes understanding, say, Who did few girls see? as a
request for a pair-list, that interpretation is unavailable. The 'big question'
that structures this project is: What ontological presuppositions best support
an explicit semantics for natural language? We contribute to the growing body of
evidence that natural language quantifies
over at least two basic domains, viz., individuals and events. We develop a
somewhat novel method of testing speakers' intuitions with regard to the
'answerhood conditions' of questions. We found, first, that some quantified
interrogatives can be ambiguous between an object- and an event-related reading.
The truth conditions of the PL response to a quantified question are those of
its event-related reading. The truth conditions of responses
to non-quantified in-situ questions are also those of the event-related reading;
the truth conditions of responses to raised quantified questions are those of
the object-related reading. We hypothesize that the interpretive possibilities
in QQs are a function of the values of two parameters: the domain being
quantified over (events or individuals, E or D) and the type of the subject
phrase (referential or quantificational, <d> or <<dt>t>). A PL reading results
from the combination [E,<d>]. WIs are the product of the 'combination'
*[E,<<dt>t>]. We hypothesize that there are no extant examples of this
combination in natural language - a type mismatch precludes it. Both the
combinations [D,<d>] and [D,<<dt>t>] yield object-related readings. IEs result
from the combination of the combination [D,<<dt>t>] and an intervener,
'wh-agent'. We develop two proposals for the semantics of QQs. The first is
algebraic and makes use of 'alternative sets'. The second is dynamic. Here, the
question operator, Q, is treated like an adverbial quantifier of the ilk of
usually or always. This approach permits a more uniform treatment of the
semantics of nominal and verbal expressions and of declaratives and interrogatives.

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