Do we need Structured Question Meanings? Two Approaches to Questions

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1 Do we need Structured Question Meanings? Manfred Krifka Humboldt-Universität & Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) Berlin Two Approaches to Questions The Proposition Set Approach (e.g., Hamblin 1958, 1973; Karttunen 1977; Groenendijk & Stokhof 1984,...): The meaning of a question is a set of propositions; a congruent answer to the question identifies one of them. [[ Which novel did? ]] = {,,... } The Functional (= Structured Meaning, Categorial) Approach (e.g., Ajdukiewicz 1928, Cohen 1929, Hull 1975, Tichy 1978, Hausser & Zaefferer 1979, Stechow & Zimmermann 1984,... Reich 2001): The meaning of a question is an unsaturated proposition; a congruent answer to the question saturates it. [[ Which novel did? ]] a. x novel b. λx novel[ x] c. λx[ x], novel Q-Function, Q-Restriction 1

2 Relationship between the PS and SM approach We can derive proposition set meanings from structured meanings: [[ Q ]] PS = { [[ Q ]] SM (y) y DOM([[ Q ]] SM ) } e.g. [[ Which novel did? ]] PS = [[ Which novel did? ]] SM (y) y DOM([[ Which novel did? ]] SM ) } = { λx novel[ x](y) y novel } = {,,... } We cannot derive structured meanings from proposition set meanings (at least if propositions are not expressions in a representation language) Hence: The PS approach is the null hypothesis; adherents for the SM approach have to provide for arguments for it. Question: Are there linguistic phenomena that cannot be handled by the PS approach, but can be handled by the SM approach? (A genuine problem of linguistic data structures!) Aims of this talk Krifka (2001), For a structured meaning account of questions and answers : There are such phenomena, hence we need an SM approach to questions. (Also, an argument against the SM approach, that it assigns different semantic types to questions, can be refuted.) Büring (2002), Question-Answer-Congruence: Unstructured : gives arguments that try to refute the arguments of Krifka (2001), arguing that the PS approach to questions is sufficient. Aims of this talk: - Restate the arguments of Krifka (2001) - Discuss the counterarguments of Büring (2002) - Conclude that the PS approach to questions is insufficient, and that an SM approach is on the right track. 2

6 PS Approach, Hamblin: Polarity questions Syntax, input to interpretation: [ C [ C0 did ] [ IP ]] Interpretation, bottom-up: [[ ]] A = {read(ulysses)(mary)} [[did]] A = {λp[p], λp[ p]} [[did ]] A = {X(Y) X [[did]] A, Y [[ ]] A } = {read(ulysses)(mary), read(ulysses)(mary)} Three Cases for the SM approach In Krifka (2001), I made three cases for added complexity: Case 1: Polarity questions and alternative questions Case 2: Multiple questions Case 3: Focusation in answers to questions. We concentrate here on Case 1 and Case 3. 6

11 Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence Requirement Proposal: Focus alternatives are pragmatically restricted; they are typically proper subsets of all possible denotations. Q: Which novel did? {read(x)(mary) x novel}, or {read(x)(mary) x C novel} A: ULYSses F. {read(x)(mary) x ALT(ulysses)} Coherence requirement: {read(x)(mary) x C novel} = {read(x)(mary) x ALT(ulysses)}; where this set needs do have at least 2 members. A: *MAry F read. {read(ulysses)(x) x ALT(mary)} Intersection with question meaning contains just one member, the proposition read(ulysses)(mary) In general: A question meaning [[ Q ]] and a set of answer alternatives [[ A ]] A form a potentially coherent pair iff # [[ Q ]] [[ A ]] A 2. Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence requirement Coherence requirement, schematically: Propositions 11

12 Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence requirement Coherence requirement, schematically: Propositions Which novel did? Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence requirement Coherence requirement, schematically: Propositions Which novel did? ULYSses F. 12

13 Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence requirement Coherence requirement, schematically: Propositions Which novel did? *A: MARy F read. Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence and underfocused answers A problem of the coherence requirement (and other versions to spell out coherence in the PS/Alternative Semantics framework): Q: [[ Which student read which novel? ]], = {read(y)(x) x student, y novel} A: [[ MARy F read ULYSses F ]] A, = {read(y)(x) x ALT(mary), y ALT(ulysses)} *A: [[ MARy F read ]] A, = {R(ulysses)(x) x ALT(mary)} The answer is unfelicitous (underfocusation), but satisfies the coherence requirement, as it is possible that: # {read(y)(x) x ALT(mary), y ALT(ulysses)} {R(ulysses)(x) x ALT(mary)} 2 13

14 Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence and underfocused answers Which student read which novel? (assuming Sue is no student) Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence and underfocused answers Which student read which novel? (assuming Sue is no student) MARy F read ULYSses F. 14

15 Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence and underfocused answers Which student read which novel? (assuming Sue is no student) MARy F read ULYSses F. MARy F read. Q/A pairs in PS: Coherence and underfocused answers Underfocused answer with focus that is too narrow: Q: [[ What did Mary do? ]], = {P(mary) P activity} A: [[ Mary READ F. ]] A, = {R(ulysses)(mary) R ALT(read)} The Q/A pair is unfelicitous (underfocusation), but satisfies the coherence requirement, as it is possible that: # {P(mary) P activity} {R(ulysses)(mary) R ALT(read)} 2 Similar problem: Overfocused answers. 15

17 Q/A pairs in PS: Büring s second reply: An appeal to Schwarzschild Preference of lesser focusing is reminiscent of Schwarzschild s theory of deaccenting Schwarzschild 1999, Givenness, AvoidF and other constraints on the placement of accent Schwarzschild s theory in a nutshell: Selkirk (1984, 1995): Recursive F-marking assignment. -- F-marking on argument licenses F-marking on head. -- F-marking on head licenses F-marking on phrase. Givenness: If a constituent is not F-marked, it must be given. Avoid F: F-mark as little as possible. Treatment of Example 3: Q: What did Mary do with which novel? A: Mary READ F ULYSses F. *A: Mary [read F ULYSses F ] F Now the second answer has more F-marking, which should be avoided; good prediction. Q/A pairs in Schwarzschild s theory Schwarzschild: F-marking can be explained solely by reference to givenness. Explanation of focus in answers to questions: Example: Q: Who did John s mother praise? A: She praised HIM F. F-marking on him is allowed, even though it is given, and even required. Why? Givenness is not violated, under the definition of Schwarzschild: An utterance β is given iff it has a salient antecent α, and and if β is an entity, β and α corefer, or modulo -type shifting, α entails the existential-f-closure of β. -type shifting of antecedent question of example: x[praise(x)(mother(john))], = Q Meaning of she praised HIM F is given: F-closure: X[praise(X)(mother(john))], entailed by Q Meaning of praised HIM F is given: F-closure: y X[praise(X)(y)], entailed by Q. Meaning of HIM F is given, as it has an antecedent. F-marking on HIM F cannot be avoided, else: as the meaning of she praised him, praise(john)(mother(john)), would otherwise not be entailed by Q. Induced F-marking praised F HIM F must be avoided, following Avoid F. Consequently, F-marking [praised F HIM F ] is not possible. Also, F-marking SHE F praised HIM F is ruled out by Avoid F. 17

18 Q/A pairs in Schwarzschild s Theory: Problems Example: polarity question or clausal alternative question. Q: Did it rain? / Did it rain or not? Q: rain rain (a tautology). A: [It RAINed] F. / *A: It rained. But F-marking is illicit in Schwarzschild s theory, as it can be avoided: Meaning of it rained: rain; this is entailed by Q. Schwarzschild discusses an apparently similar problem with Did John leave?, which he analyzes, following Bäuerle 1979, as restricted wh-question Who left, John?. The -closure of this question is the proposition that someone left, which does not entail the unfocused John left, but the F-closure of JOHN F left. This way out does not work for polarity questions like Did it rain? Q/A pairs in Schwarzschild s theory: Problems Problem (as above): No differentiation between multiple foci and broad focus. Example: Q: What did Mary do? Existential closure: Q: P[P(mary)] A: She [read F ULYSses F ] F, F-closure P[P(mary)] entailed by Q *A: She READ F ULYSses F, F-closure R x[r(x)(mary)] entailed by Q, if x, R, P range over D e, D et, D eet. Wrong prediction: The second answer is preferred because it shows fewer f-marking. 18

19 Conclusion The structured meaning theory of questions provides a more complex representation of questions; this greater complexity has to be justified. We have seen that it is justified on at least two counts, in spite of criticism on previous arguments: -- It provides for a way to distinguish the meanings of polarity questions and certain alternative questions: Did? Did or not? -- It prevents the problem of over- or underfocused answers in a straightforward way. Conclusion: The greater complexity of the SM approach to questions may well be necessary. 19

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