Negative wh-construction and its semantic properties Authors
First Online: 08 December 2009 Received: 16 October 2008 Accepted: 29 September 2009 DOI:
Cite this article as: Cheung, L.Y. J East Asian Linguist (2009) 18: 297. doi:10.1007/s10831-009-9051-2 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
Rhetorical question particle
The author is now working at the Department of Decision Sciences, Chinese University of Hong Kong.
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