Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 201–245 | Cite as

Alternatives in different dimensions: a case study of focus intervention

  • Haoze LiEmail author
  • Jess H.-K. Law
Original Research


In Beck (Nat Lang Seman 14:1–56, 2006), focus intervention is used as an argument for reducing Hamblin’s (Found Lang 10:41–53, 1973) semantics for questions to Rooth’s (Association with focus. Ph.D. Thesis, 1985) focus semantics. Drawing on novel empirical evidence from Mandarin and English, we argue that this reduction is unwarranted. Maintaining both Hamblin’s original semantics and Rooth’s focus semantics not only allows for a more adequate account for focus intervention in questions, but also correctly predicts that focus intervention is a very general phenomenon caused by interaction of alternatives in different dimensions.


Focus intervention Alternative Semantics Questions Focus 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abusch, D. (2002). Lexical alternatives as a source of pragmatic presupposition. In B. Jackson (Ed.), The proceedings of the 12th semantics and linguistic theory conference (SALT 12) (pp. 1–19). Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Abusch D. (2010) Presupposition triggering from alternatives. Journal of Semantics 27: 37–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al Khatib, S. (2014). Free choice under only. In J. Iyer & L. Kusmer (Eds.), The proceedings of the north eastern linguistics society 44 (Vol. 1, pp. 15–28). Amherst: GLSA.Google Scholar
  4. Aloni, M. (2003). Free choice in modal contexts. In M. Weisgerber (Ed.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 7, pp. 25 – 37.Google Scholar
  5. Alonso-Ovalle, L. (2006). Disjunction in alternative semantics. Ph. D. thesis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.Google Scholar
  6. Alonso-Ovalle L. (2008) Innocent exclusion in an Alternative Semantics. Natural Language Semantics 16: 115–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alonso-Ovalle L. (2009) Counterfactuals, correlatives, and disjunction. Linguistics and Philosophy 32: 207–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Alonso-Ovalle L., Menendez-Benito P. (2015) Epistemic indefinites: Exploring modality beyond the verbal domain. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Aoun J., Li Y.-H. A. (1993) Wh-elements in situ: Syntax or LF. Linguistic Inquiry 24: 199–238Google Scholar
  10. Beaver D., Clark B. (2003) Always and only: Why not all focus-sensitive operators are alike. Natural Language Semantics 11: 323–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Beaver D., Krahmer E. (2001) A partial account of presupposition projection. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 10: 147–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Beck S. (1996) Quantified structures as barriers for LF movement. Natural Language Semantics 4: 1–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Beck S. (2006) Intervention effects follow from focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics 14: 1–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Beck S., Kim S.-S. (1997) On wh- and operator scope in Korean. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 6: 339–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Beck S., Kim S.-S. (2006) Intervention effects in alternative questions. Journal of Comparative German Linguistics 9: 165–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Beck, S., & Rullmann,. (1999). A flexible approach to exhaustivity in questions. Natural Language Semantics, 7, 249–297.Google Scholar
  17. Biezma M., Rawlins K. (2012) Responding to alternative and polar questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 35: 361–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cable S. (2010) The grammar of Q. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Charlow, S. (2014). On the semantics of exceptional scope. Ph. D. thesis, New York University.Google Scholar
  20. Cheng, L. L.-S. (1991). On the typology of WH-questions. Ph. D. thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  21. Cheng, L. L.-S. (2008). Deconstructing the construction. The Linguistic Review, 25, 235–266.Google Scholar
  22. Chierchia, G. (2001). A puzzle about indefinites. In C. Cecchetto, G. Chierchia, & M. T. Guasti (Eds.), Semantic interfaces: Reference, anaphora and aspect (pp. 51–89). Stanford, CA: CSLI.Google Scholar
  23. Chierchia, G., & Liao, H.-C. (2015). Where do Chinese wh-item fit? In L. Alonso Ovallel & P. Menéndez Benito (Eds.), Epistemic indefinites: Exploring modality beyond the verbal domain (pp. 31–59). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Ciardelli I., Roelofsen F. (2015) Alternatives in Montague grammar. In Proceedings Sinn und Bedeutung 19: 161–178Google Scholar
  25. Comorovski, I. (1989). Discourse and the syntax of multiple constituent questions. Ph.D. Thesis, Cornell University.Google Scholar
  26. Comorovski I. (1996) Interrogative phrases and the syntax-semantics interface. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Constant, N. (2014). Constrast topic: Meaning and realization. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.Google Scholar
  28. Crain S. (2012) The emergence of meaning. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dayal V. (1996) Locality in wh-quantification: Questions and relative clauses in Hindi. Kluwer Academic Press, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Dayal, V. (in press). Questions. Oxford surveys in semantics and pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press (To appear in October 2016).Google Scholar
  31. Dong, H. (2009). Issues in the semantics of Mandarin questions. Ph.D. Thesis, Cornell University.Google Scholar
  32. Eckardt, R. (2007). Inherent focus on wh-phrases. In E. Puig-Waldmueller (Ed.), Proceedings of Sinn and Bedeutung 11, 209–228.Google Scholar
  33. Eilam, A. (2011). Explorations of the informational component. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  34. Erlewine, M. Y. (2014). Alternative questions through focus alternatives in Mandarin Chinese. In Proceedings of the 48th meeting of the Chicago linguistics society (CLS 48), pp. 221–234.Google Scholar
  35. Fox, D. (2007). Free choice and the theory of scalar implicatures. In U. Sauerland & P. Statava (Eds.), Presupposition and implicature in compositional semantics (pp. 71–120). Plagrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.Google Scholar
  36. Groenendijk, J., & M. Stokhof (1984). Studies on the semantics of questions and the pragmatics of answers. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  37. Grohmann, K. K. (2006). Top issues in questions: Topics-topicalization-topicalizability. In L. L.-S. C. Cheng & N. Corver (Eds.), Wh-movement: Moving on (pp. 349–388). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  38. Guerzoni, E. (2003). Why even ask? On the pragmatics of questions and the semantics of answers. Ph.D. Thesis, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  39. Haida, A. (2007). The indefiniteness and focusing of wh-words. Ph.D. Thesis, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin.Google Scholar
  40. Hamblin C. L. (1973) Questions in montague english. Foundations of Language 10: 41–53Google Scholar
  41. Han C.-H., Romero M. (2004) Disjunction, focus, and scope. Linguistic Inquiry 35(2): 179–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. He, C. (2011). Expansion and closure: Towards a theory of wh-construals in Chinese. Ph.D. Thesis, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.Google Scholar
  43. Heim I. (1983) On the projection problem of presuppositions. In Proceedings of WCCFL 15: 114–125Google Scholar
  44. Heim I., Kratzer A. (1998) Semantics in generative grammar. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  45. Hoh P.-S., Chiang W.-Y. (1990) A focus account of moved wh-phrases at s-structure in chinese. Lingua 81: 47–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Huang, C.-T. J. (1982a). Logical relations in Chinese and the theory of grammar. Ph.D. Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  47. Huang, C.-T. J. (1982b). Move wh in a language without wh-movement. The Linguistic Review, 1, 369–416.Google Scholar
  48. Huang, C.-T. J. (1988). Shuo shi he you [on be and have in chinese]. The Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 59, 43–64.Google Scholar
  49. Ishihara, S. (2003). Intonation and interface conditions. Ph.D. Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  50. Karttunen L. (1977) Syntax and semantics of questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 1: 3–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Karttunen, L., & S. Peters (1976). What indirect questions conventionally implicate. In Papers from the 12th regional meeting of Chicago Linguistc Society, pp. 351–369.Google Scholar
  52. Kim S.-S. (2002) Intervention effects are focus effects. Japanese/Korean Linguistics 10: 615–628Google Scholar
  53. Kim, S.-S. (2006). Questions, focus and intervention effects. In S. Kuno, I.-H. Lee, J. Whitman, S.-Y. Bak, & Y.-S. Kang (Eds.), Harvard studies in Korean linguistics XI (pp. 520–533). Seoul: Hanshin Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  54. Kitagawa, Y., Roehrs, D., & Tomioka, S. (2004). Multiple wh-interpretations. In H.-J. Yoon (Ed.), Generative grammar in a broader perspective: The proceedings of the 4th GLOW in Asia, pp. 209–233.Google Scholar
  55. Kotek, H., & Erlewine, M. Y. (to appear). Covert pied-piping in english multiple wh-questions. Linguistic Inquiry.Google Scholar
  56. Kratzer, A. (1991). The representation of focus. In A. von Stechow & D. Wunderlich (Eds.), Semantics: An international handbook of contemporary research (pp. 825–834). Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  57. Kratzer, A. (2005). Indefinites and the operators they depend on: From Japanese to Salish. In G. N. Carlson & F. J. Pelletier (Eds.), Reference and quantification: The partee effect (pp. 113–142). Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  58. Kratzer, A., & Shimoyama, J. (2002). Indeterminate pronouns: The view from Japanese. In Y. Otsu (Ed.), The proceedings of the 3rd Tokyo conference on psycholinguistics (pp. 1–25). Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo.Google Scholar
  59. Krifka, M. (2001). For a structured meaning account of questions and answers. In C. Fery & W. Sternefeld (Eds.), Studia Grammatica 52 (pp. 287–319). Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  60. Larson R. K. (1985) On the syntax of disjunction scope. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 3: 217–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lee, H.-C. (2005). On Chinese focus and cleft constructions. Ph.D. Thesis, National Tsing Hua University.Google Scholar
  62. Li, A. Y.-H. (1992). Indefinite wh in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 1, 12–155.Google Scholar
  63. Li, H. (2013). Association between focus particles and wh-phrases. In N. Goto, K. Otaki, A. Sato, & K. Takita (Eds.), The proceedings of the 9th GLOW in Asia (pp. 109–123). Tsu: Mie University.Google Scholar
  64. Li, H., & Cheung, C. C.-H. (2015). Focus intervention effects in Mandarin multiple wh-questions. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 24, 361–382.Google Scholar
  65. Liao, H.-C. (2011). Alternatives and exhaustification: Non-interrogative uses of Chinese wh-words. Ph.D. Thesis, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  66. Lin, J.-W. (1996). Polarity licensing and wh-phrase quantification in Chinese. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  67. Lin, J.-W. (1998a). Distributivity in Chinese and its implications. Natural Language Semantics, 6(2), 201–243.Google Scholar
  68. Lin, J.-W. (1998b). On existential polarity wh-phrases in Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 7, 219–255.Google Scholar
  69. Lin J.-W. (1999) Double quantification and the meaning of shenme ‘what’ in Chinese bare conditionals. Linguistics and Philosophy 22(6): 573–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Lin J.-W. (2004) Choice function and scope of existential polarity wh-phrases in Mandarin Chinese. Linguistics and Philosophy 27: 451–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Mart’  L. (2003). Contextual variables. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Connecticut.Google Scholar
  72. Mayr, C. (2014). Intervention effects and additivity. Journal of Semantics, 31, 513–554.Google Scholar
  73. Miyagawa, S. (2010). Why agree? Why move?. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  74. Nicolae A. (2015) Questions with NPIs. Natural Language Semantics 23: 21–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Novel, M., & Romero, M. (2010). Movement, variables and Hamblin alternatives. In M. Prinzhorn, V. Schmitt, & S. Zobel (Eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 14 (pp. 322–338). Vienna: University of Vienna.Google Scholar
  76. Partee, B. (1993). On the ‘scope of negation’ and polarity sensitivity. In E. Hajicova (Ed.), Functional approaches to language description (pp. 1–18). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  77. Partee, B. H., & Rooth, M. (1983). Generalized conjunction and type ambiguity. In R. Bäuerle, C. Schwarze, & A. von Stechow (Eds.), Meaning, use and interpretation of language (pp. 362–383). Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  78. Pesetsky, D. (2000). Phrasal movement and its kin. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  79. Rawlins, K. (2008). (Un)conditionals: An investigation in the syntax and semantics of conditional structures. Ph.D. Thesis, University of California at Santa Cruz.Google Scholar
  80. Rawlins K. (2013) (Un)conditionals. Natural Language Semantics 40: 111–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Reinhart T. (2006) Interface strategies. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  82. Roberts C. (2012) Information structure in discourse: Towards an integrated formal theory of pragmatics. Semantics & Pragmatics 5: 1–69Google Scholar
  83. Romero M., Han C.-H. (2004) On negative yes/no questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 27: 609–658CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Romoli J. (2013) A scalar implicature-based approach to neg-raising. Linguistics and Philosophy 36: 291–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Rooth, M. (1985). Association with focus. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.Google Scholar
  86. Rooth M. (1992) A theory of focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics 1: 75–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Rullmann, H., & Beck, S. (1998). Presupposition projection and the interpretation of which-questions. In D. Strolovitch & A. Lawson (Eds.), The proceedings of 8th semantics and linguistic theory conference (SALT 8) (pp. 215–232). Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.Google Scholar
  88. Shan, C.-C. (2004). Binding alongside Hamblin alternatives calls for variable-free semantics. In R. B. Young (Ed.), The proceedings of the 14th semantics and linguistic theory conference (SALT 14) (pp. 289–304). Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.Google Scholar
  89. Shimoyama J. (2006) Indeterminate phrase quantification in Japanese. Natural Language Semantics 14: 139–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Simons M. (2005) Dividing things up: The semantics of or and the modal/or interactions. Natural Language Semantics 13: 271–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Slade, B. (2011). Formal and philological inquiries into the nature of interrogatives, indefinites, disjunction, and focus in Sinhala and other languages. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Google Scholar
  92. Szabolcsi, A. (2006). How unitary are intervention effects? Presented at Brussels Conference on Generative Linguistics.Google Scholar
  93. Tancredi, C. (1990). Syntactic association with focus. In D. Meyer, S. Tomioka, & L. Zidani-Eroglu (Eds.), Proceedings of the first meeting of the formal linguistics society of Midamerica (pp. 289–303). Madison: University of Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  94. Teng S.-H. (1979) Remarks on cleft sentences in Chinese. Journal of Chinese Linguistics 7: 101–113Google Scholar
  95. Tomioka S. (2007) Pragmatics of LF intervention effects: Japanese and Korean interrogatives. Journal of Pragmatics 39: 1570–1590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Tomioka S. (2009) Why-questions, presuppositions, and intervention effects. Journal of East Asia Linguistics 18: 253–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Truckenbrodt H. (2013) An analysis of prosodic f-effects in interrogatives: Prosody, syntax and semantics. Lingua 124: 131–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Tsai W.-T. D. (2004) Tan zhi yu lian de xingshi yuyi [on the formal semantics of only and even in Chinese]. Studies of the Chinese Language 2: 99–111Google Scholar
  99. von Fintel, K. (1994). Restrictions on quantifier domains. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.Google Scholar
  100. von Prince K. (2012) Predication and information structure in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 21: 329–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. von Stechow, A. (1991). Focusing and background operators. In W. Abraham (Ed.), Discourse particles: Descriptive and theoretical investigations on the logical, syntactic and pragmatic properties of discourse particles in German (pp. 37–81). Amsterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar
  102. Watanabe, A. (2002). Loss of overt wh-movement in Old Japanese. In D. Lightfoot (Ed.), Syntactic effects of morphological change (pp. 179–195). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  103. Wold, D. E. (1996). Long distance selective binding: The case of focus. In T. Galloway & J. Spence (Eds.), The proceedings of the 6th semantics and linguistic theory conference (SALT 6) (pp. 311–328). Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.Google Scholar
  104. Xie Z. (2013) Focus, (non-)exhaustivity, and intervention effects in wh-in-situ argument questions. Linguistic Review 30: 585–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Yang, C.-Y. B. (2008). Intervention effects and the covert component of the grammar. Ph.D. Thesis, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan.Google Scholar
  106. Yang, C.-Y. B. (2012). Intervention effects and wh-construals. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 21, 43–87.Google Scholar
  107. Yatsushiro K. (2009) The distribution of quantificational suffixes in Japanese. Natural Language Semantics 17: 141–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Zhang, N. (1997). Syntactic dependencies in Mandarin Chinese. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Toronto.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Linguistics, RutgersThe State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations