Experiments on the acceptability and possible readings of questions embedded under emotive-factives


Emotive-factive predicates, such as surprise or be happy, are a source of empirical and theoretical puzzles in the literature on embedded questions. Although they embed wh-questions, they seem not to embed whether-questions. They have complex interactions with negative polarity items such as any or even, and they have been argued to preferentially give rise to weakly exhaustive readings with embedded questions (in contrasts with most other verbs, which have been argued to give rise to strongly exhaustive readings). We offer an empirical overview of the situation in three experiments collecting acceptability judgments, monotonicity judgments, and truth-value judgments. The results straightforwardly confirm the special selectional properties of emotive-factive predicates. More interestingly, they reveal the existence of strongly exhaustive readings for surprise. The results also suggest that the special properties of emotive-factives cannot be solely explained by their monotonicity profiles, because they were not found to differ from the profiles of other responsive predicates.


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexandre Cremers.

Additional information

We wish to thank Angelika Kratzer, Andreea Nicolae, Florian Pellet, Yael Sharvit, Benjamin Spector, Kristen Syrett, Lyn Tieu, Wataru Uegaki, anonymous reviewers, and the Attitude Ascriptions & Speech Reports group at SIASSI Berlin. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement no. 313610 and was supported by ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02 PSL* and ANR-10-LABX-0087 IEC.

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Cremers, A., Chemla, E. Experiments on the acceptability and possible readings of questions embedded under emotive-factives. Nat Lang Semantics 25, 223–261 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-017-9135-x

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  • Embedded questions
  • Emotive-factive predicates
  • Psycholinguistics