Cool Logic

Hana Möller Kalpak (ILLC)

Unconcealing concealed questions

October 20th at 18:00, in F1.15, ILLC Seminar Room

Embedded questions are things like the ‘what’-phrase in ‘You know what embedded questions are’. Now, meet concealed questions: the shyer version of embedded questions. These constructions disguise themselves as determiner phrases (DPs), though still carry question meanings: ‘I know your age’ is naturally interpreted as ‘I know which age you are’, and ‘Kim learned all the world capitals’ is naturally interpreted as ‘Kim really needs to get a life’ (or, more robustly, as ‘For every city x, Kim learned whether x is a capital’, or ‘For every country x, Kim learned what the capital of x is’).

It is standard to assume that not all determiner phrases are possible concealers of questions. Most recently, Barker (2016) and Frana (2017) claim that the availability of concealed question readings of DPs is determined by the semantic type of the DP head noun. DPs headed by relational nouns, ie. two-place nouns (like ‘age’ and ‘capital’), are argued to exhibit concealed question readings as described above. Constructions with DPs headed by unmodified sortal, ie. one-place, nouns, eg. ?‘I know your brick’, are claimed to lack all (Barker) or some (Frana) of the described concealed question-readings.

In this talk, you will be presented with counterexamples to these claims, and offered a new, alternative account of when and why DPs are read as concealed questions. The account extends Aloni & Roelofsen (2011), and involves quantification over conceptual covers, one of the most trivial card games ever invented, and the best division of semantic and pragmatic labour in the history of the United States (period). Come see for yourselves!