Interpreting concealed questions

Abstract

Concealed questions are determiner phrases that are naturally paraphrased as embedded questions (e.g., John knows the capital of Italy ≈ John knows what the capital of Italy is). This paper offers a novel account of the interpretation of concealed questions, which assumes that an entity-denoting expression α may be type-shifted into an expression ?z.P(α), where P is a contextually determined property, and z ranges over a contextually determined domain of individual concepts. Different resolutions of P and the domain of z yield a wide range of concealed question interpretations, some of which were not noted previously. On the other hand, principled constraints on the resolution process prevent overgeneration.

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Correspondence to Floris Roelofsen.

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Previous versions of this paper have been presented at SALT in 2008, at the Frequently Asked Concealed Questions workshop organized by Ilaria Frana, Magdalena Schwager, and Sarah Zobel in Göttingen in June 2009, at the Focus on Discourse and Context-Dependence workshop organized by Kata Balogh in Amsterdam in September 2009, during a seminar on implicit content organized by Barbara Partee in Amherst in November 2009, and at a symposium on the occasion of the PhD-defense of Radek Šimík in Groningen in February 2011. We are very grateful to the audiences at these events, and in particular to Rajesh Bhatt, Kai von Fintel, Ilaria Frana, Jeroen Groenendijk, Jesse Harris, Irene Heim, Cécile Meier, Lance Nathan, Barbara Partee, Maribel Romero, Magdalena Schwager, Matthijs Westera, and two anonymous reviewers for very useful feedback. The research reported here was made possible by financial support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), which is gratefully acknowledged.

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Aloni, M., Roelofsen, F. Interpreting concealed questions. Linguist and Philos 34, 443–478 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-011-9102-9

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Keywords

  • Concealed question
  • Quantification under conceptual cover
  • Context-dependence