The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 2/10 - Wataru Uegaki

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki (MIT)
Title: Interpreting questions under attitudes
Date: Tuesday, February 10th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

Since Karttunen (1977), interpretations of embedded questions have played a central role in the development of the semantics of questions. One of the important observations in this domain is that interpretations of embedded questions vary depending on the type of embedding attitude predicates. More specifically, cognitive attitude predicates like “know” prefer strongly-exhaustive interpretations of their interrogative complements (Groenendijk & Stokhof 1984) while emotive factives like “surprise” and “be happy” only allow weakly-exhaustive interpretations (Heim 1994, a.o). Also, Égré & Spector (2007, to appear) argue that the class of predicates that are veridical with respect to interrogative-embedding are precisely the class of predicate that are factive with respect to declarative-embedding. Despite the rich literature on embedded questions, however, there has been no account that succeeds in predicting both their exhaustivity and veridicality given the lexical semantics of embedding predicates. In this talk, I propose a theory of question-embedding that is properly constrained to achieve this prediction.

My analysis of exhaustivity is based on a reformulation of Klinedinst and Rothschild’s (2011) analysis of the so-called intermediate exhaustivity. Under this analysis, matrix exhaustification derives intermediate exhaustivity, but the exhaustification is vacuous when the embedding predicate is non-monotonic. Strong exhaustivity is argued to be pragmatically derived from intermediate exhaustivity. Thus, exhaustivity of embedded questions depends on the monotonicity property of embedding predicates, which I argue to be the relevant property distinguishing between cognitive attitude predicates and emotive factives.

Building on Uegaki (to appear), I further analyze declarative-embedding as a special, trivial, case of question-embedding. Under this analysis, factivity is derived as a limiting case of veridicality, providing a natural explanation for Égré & Spector’s generalization (cf. Theiler 2014). The analysis will then be extended to mention-some readings, including George’s (2011) “non-reducibility” puzzle. I will conclude by discussing several open questions concerning the syntax and semantics of attitude predicates and interrogatives in general.