Questions and Attitudes

  • Ferenc Kiefer
Part of the Synthese Language Library book series (SLAP, volume 13)


In this paper I am going to discuss certain semantic and pragmatic aspects of questions. It will be assumed that the semantics of questions need not take into account speech situations and that, in contradistinction to semantics, the pragmatics of questions can only be accounted for by taking into consideration speech situations (involving at least two aspects: the interactional setting and the knowledge of the speaker/hearer). I shall mainly be concerned with the problem of how knowledge, more precisely, knowledge about the answer, is involved in the pragmatic interpretation of questions. I am going to stipulate that the various types of questions (information question, rhetorical question, didactic question, examination question, etc.) can best be accounted for by postulating a common semantic structure for all questions — apart from the differences in propositional content — and let pragmatics do the rest. The main difference between the various question types will be analyzed in terms of differences in cognitive attitudes which, in turn, are based to a large extent on some particular features of knowledge. In the second part of my paper I am going to show that there is an interesting relationship between the cognitive attitudes of questions and the predicate types of the matrix sentences of embedded questions. In addition, I shall try to answer the question of what kind of predicates can occur in these matrix sentences and how they are organized.


Propositional Attitude Propositional Content Rhetorical Question Illocutionary Force Cognitive Attitude 
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.


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© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1981

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  • Ferenc Kiefer

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