The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Course announcement: “More on Questions”

*How much does this truck not weigh?

24.S94: More on Questions
Danny Fox
class website: https://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa12/24.S94/index.html

Times and locations:
Week 1, class 1 & 2: Wednesday 9/26 2:30-5:30pm; Friday 9/28 2:00pm-5:00pm (32-D461)
Week 2, class 3 & 4: Wednesday 10/3 2:30-4:30pm; Friday 10/5 2:00pm-5:00pm (32-D461)
Week 3, class 5 : Wednesday 10/10 2:30-5:30pm (32-D461)
Week 3, class 6 : probably Thursday 10/11 2:00-5:00 (or as arranged with class) (location TBA)

In this class I will try to develop an argument for a particular treatment of pair-list readings in multiple wh-questions that I made in a 2010 seminar (taught with Irene and Kai).

The starting point is Dayal’s proposal that questions are associated with a maximality presupposition – the requirement that one true member of the Hamblin-denotation entail all true members. As Dayal shows, maximality accounts for uniqueness in simple singular wh questions (Which boy came? is associated with the inference that exactly one boy came). Dayal’s proposal, which provides the basis for a family accounts of negative islands and related phenomena, fails to derive the pair list readings of multiple wh-questions, such as Which boy read which book?.

I will try to argue that this problem can be resolved if multiple questions denote families of questions, derived from logical forms that obey Richard’s tucking-in generalization. The rest of the class will investigate various issues that have a potential bearing on the proposal: issues pertaining to quantificational variability in questions, to pair-list readings that arise from normal quantification (e.g. Which book did every boy read?), and to the nature of superiority.