The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 2/17 - Yimei Xiang

Speaker: Yimei Xiang
Time: Wednesday, February 17, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Short answers, mention-some, and uniqueness: A hybrid approach for questions

This talk will discuss three issues related to the semantics of questions, including (i) the derivation of short answers, (ii) the variations of exhaustivity in diamond-questions like (1), and (iii) the dilemma between uniqueness (Dayal 1996) and mention-some (Fox 2013).

(1) Who can chair the committee?

First, to derive short answers grammatically, I propose a hybrid approach to compose the semantics of questions. Under this approach, the root denotation of a question is a topical property (a la categorial approaches), while then exercising an answerhood-operator returns a set of good propositional answers (like Hamblin-Karttunen semantics) or a set of good short answers. Second, to predict mention-some grammatically, I adopt Fox’s (2013) view that completeness amounts to maximal informativity instead of strongestness. I argue that the mention-some/mention-all ambiguity in a diamond-question comes from the absence/presence of a covert DOU-operator (viz., the covert counterpart of Mandarin dou) (compare Fox 2013). Third, to solve the dilemma between uniqueness and mention-some, I propose that the strongestness of a true short answer can be evaluated under any property that yields the same world partition (Groenendijk & Stokhof 1984) as the actual topical property.