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Negative wh-construction and its semantic properties

  • Lawrence Yam-Leung Cheung
Article

Abstract

Widely attested cross-linguistically, the Negative WH (NWH)-construction involves the special use of wh-words (e.g., ‘where’, ‘what’, and ‘how’) to convey negation in certain specific contexts. The first half of this paper identifies the negative assertion as the primary meaning of the NWH construction, in addition to two conventional implicatures. In the second half, I argue that the grammatical features in NWHCs in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese strongly suggest that NWHCs should be analyzed as interrogative wh-questions. The quantification domain of NWH-words is the sets of propositions that pick out the conversational backgrounds of the sentence (Kratzer 1977; Portner 2009). The NWHC can be paraphrased as “What is the proposition q such that in view of q, p is true?” However, the interrogative question can only receive a negative rhetorical interpretation (i.e., a question without a true answer) because the conventional implicatures make it impossible for p to be true against any of the conversational backgrounds.

Keywords

Negation Wh-construction Quantification domain Rhetorical question Conversational background 

The following is a list of abbreviations used in the glossing:

Agr

Agreement

Dem

Demonstrative

Nom

Nominative

Q

Question particle

Sg

Singular

Cl

Classifier

Det

Determiner

Pl

Plural

Rel

Relativization marker

SP

Sentence particle

Decl

Declarative marker

Gen

Genitive

Pst

Past tense

RhetQ

Rhetorical question particle

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsLos AngelesUSA

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