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Denn as a highlighting-sensitive particle

Abstract

This paper develops an account of the German discourse particle denn that captures the meaning contribution of this particle in polar questions, wh-questions, and certain conditional antecedents in a unified way. It is shown that the behavior of denn exhibits an asymmetry between polar and wh-interrogatives, which can be captured by treating the particle as sensitive to the property highlighted by its containing clause, in the sense of Roelofsen and Farkas (Language 91(2):359–414, 2015). In addition, the paper argues that highlighting-sensitivity should be incorporated in the account of another discourse particle, German überhaupt, and discusses how the proposed account of discourse particle denn may be extended to also cover the use of denn as a causal conjunction.

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Correspondence to Nadine Theiler.

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I thank Maria Aloni, Eva Csipak, Mike Deigan, Regine Eckardt, Donka Farkas, Angelika Kratzer, Floris Roelofsen, Julian Schlöder, Johannes Schneider, Yasu Sudo, Matthijs Westera, and two anonymous reviewers for feedback on earlier versions of the ideas presented here. I am also very grateful to audiences at the ILLC, at NELS 48, CSSP 2017, the University of Konstanz, the University of Potsdam and the PLM Masterclass in Salzburg for helpful comments and discussion. This paper was written while I was a Ph.D. student at the University of Amsterdam, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

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Theiler, N. Denn as a highlighting-sensitive particle. Linguist and Philos 44, 323–362 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-019-09290-7

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