Why questions, presuppositions, and intervention effects



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.


Intervention effect Presupposition Information structure Focus Gradable judgment Epistemic bias 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and Cognitive ScienceUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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