, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 253-271
Date: 11 Dec 2009

Why questions, presuppositions, and intervention effects

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Abstract

Intervention effects, triggered by the presence of an intervener c-commanding a Wh-phrase, are known to be weaker in why questions in Japanese and Korean. The existing analyses of this surprising phenomenon focus on the comparison between why questions and other Wh-questions but have not paid attention to the fact that the sentence is still judged more acceptable when an intervener does not c-command why. This paper presents a novel account that appeals to a peculiar presuppositional property of why questions and their impact on the information structure of Wh-questions. Unlike the previous analyses, the proposal can correctly derive graded acceptability of why questions in intervention contexts. It is also shown that the re-emergence of intervention effects with embedded why questions also has its root in the presupposition.