Journal of Logic, Language and Information

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 173-186

First online:

Relevant Answers to WH-Questions

  • Helen GaylardAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, University of Exeter
  • , Allan RamsayAffiliated withDepartment of Computation, UMIST

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We consider two issues relating to WH-questions:

(i) when you ask aWH-question you already have a description of the entity you are interested in,namely the description embodied in the question itself. You may evenhave very direct access to the entity – see (1) below.In general, what you want is an alternative description of some item thatyou already know a certain amount about.

(ii) the person attempting to answer the question may not be able to lay theirhands on an example, but they may know what they are like, how you recognisethem, where you can get them. If someone asks me “Where can I buy an Italiannewspaper?” then it is better to give them a generic answer like“In any large newsagent.” than to just say “I don't know.

We argue that attempting to deal with these issues requires the person (or system) trying to come up with an answer to reason about thedescription embodied in the question, and we describe a system that is capableof carrying out such reasoning.

inference interrogatives reference