The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch 9/5 - Shigeru Miyagawa (MIT)

Speaker: Shigeru Miyagawa (MIT)
Title: The Question Particle in Japanese and the Nature of Exhaustivity in Wh-questions
Time: Thursday, September 5th, 12:30pm – 1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Wh-questions typically require an answer that gives the maximal information possible. I argue that this notion of exhaustivity is overtly marked by the Question particle in the root clauses in Japanese. We can detect the exhaustivity associated with the Q-particle by optionally omitting it; in the absence of the Q-particle, the question loses the exhaustive meaning, which signals that a partial answer is sufficient. We will see that the Q-particle provides a test for a number of issues in the meaning of questions that heretofore were not easily testable. We will see that a question that has for example, which asks for a partial answer, nevertheless may have the Q-particle because the question can contain the meaning of exhaustivity in its underlying meaning. Why questions require the Q-particle because why cannot lead to a partial answer. There is one situation where the Q-particle is prohibited; I argue that it is a pure form of Question Under Discussion, made possible by a question lacking the meaning of exhaustivity. For the mention-all versus mention-one question-answers, we will see that both contain exhaustivity. I will propose that the exhaustivity associated with mention-one questions is directly related to Schwarzschild’s (2002) idea of singleton indefinites.