On Wh-Exclamatives and Noteworthiness

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7218)


We explore a new approach to the semantics of wh-exclamatives, like (1).

(1) What a beautiful song John wrote!

We will aim for two things: (i) extend the empirical focus beyond English what-and how-exclamatives, to include exclamatives common in other languages that are based on other wh-words; (ii) counter the common assumption that exclamative semantics needs to involve some kind of scalar mechanism.

Before we motivate and present our analysis, a word of caution is in order. To simplify matters for this short paper, we will be discussing the semantics of exclamatives like (1) in terms of truth-conditions. Such a move blatantly ignores the fact that an utterance of (1) counts as a speech act that comes with its own intricate and interesting properties, properties which will be quite different from those of an assertion. For the purpose of this short paper, however, we will remain agnostic as to what role the truth-conditions play in the pragma-semantics of exclamatives. [See Rett, 2012; Zanuttini and Portner, 2003, for extensive discussion.]


Comparison Class Degree Function Vague Predicate Gradable Adjective Universal Scale 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bale, A.: A universal scale of comparison. Linguistics and Philosophy 31, 1–55 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Castroviejo, E.: Wh-Exclamatives in Catalan. Ph.D. thesis, Universitat de Barcelona (2006)Google Scholar
  3. Castroviejo-Miro, E.: Adverbs in restricted configurations. In: Cabredo Hofherr, P., Bonami, O. (eds.) Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics, vol. 7, pp. 53–76 (2008)Google Scholar
  4. d’Avis, F.-J.: On the interpretation of wh-clauses in exclamative environments. Theoretical Linguistics 28, 5–31 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Kennedy, C., McNally, L.: Scale structure, degree modification and the semantics of gradable predicates. Language 81(2), 345–381 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Klein, E.: A semantics for positive and comparative adjectives. Linguistics and Philosophy 4, 1–45 (1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Nouwen, R.: Degree modifiers and monotonicity. In: Egré, P., Klinedinst, N. (eds.) Vagueness and Language Use. Palgrave McMillan (2011)Google Scholar
  8. Rett, J.: A degree account of exclamatives. In: Proceedings of SALT XVII (2008a)Google Scholar
  9. Rett, J.: Degree modification in Natural Language. Ph.D. thesis, Rutgers (2008b)Google Scholar
  10. Rett, J.: Exclamatives, degrees and speech acts. Linguistics and Philosophy (in press, 2012)Google Scholar
  11. Zanuttini, R., Portner, P.: Exclamative clauses: at the syntax-semantics interface. Language 79(1), 39–81 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Utrechts Instituut voor LinguïstiekThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations