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Nadine Theiler: “A Unified Semantics for Additive Particles”
January 24, 2019 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm | Humanities 2, Room 259
English has several additive particles, which differ in their distribution. One of these is also, a
common choice to signal additivity in assertions and polar questions, (1a-b). It has been
suggested that this particle can’t appear in a wh-question without triggering a so-called
show-master interpretation (Umbach, 2012), in which the speaker already has a certain answer in
mind when asking the question, (1c).
(1) Mary danced all night.
a. John also danced.
b. Did John also dance?
c. #Who also danced?
In this talk, I will challenge this generalization based on a previously unnoticed class of
questions, which I call summoning questions. To account for the resulting more differentiated
empirical picture, I will generalize Beaver and Clark (2008)’s QUD-based account of additive
particles by lifting it to an inquisitive semantics setting (Ciardelli et al., 2018). This allows us to
capture the contribution of also in declaratives and interrogatives in a unified way, while still
accounting for its distributional restrictions.
Additive particles are just one example of expressions that can appear with declarative and
different kinds of interrogative clauses. In the remainder of the talk, I will briefly walk through
two other examples—clause-embedding verbs like know, and the German discourse particle
denn—to show how the proposed account of additive particles forms part of a larger research
program that aims to develop formally unified accounts of expressions in this family.
Nadine Theiler is a PhD student at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation in Amsterdam, where she is a member of the Inquisitive Semantics group.
Theiler’s research interests broadly relate to information exchange through linguistic communication, with a focus on question semantics. She is interested in the nature of questions as semantic objects as well as in the role that questions play in the structuring and interpretation of discourse.