Cross-linguistic variation in the derivation of alternative questions: Japanese and beyond

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this paper, I submit two empirical claims regarding the cross-linguistic variation in alternative questions (AltQs). The first claim is that there are in principle two ways in which AltQs are derived: scope-shifting of the disjunction and disjoining PolQs. The other claim is that some languages, in particular Japanese, only allow the second option in forming an AltQ.
With these empirical results, as a theoretical proposal, I posit three kinds of disjunctions that differ from each other in (i) their scope with respect to the Q-operator and (ii) whether they locally disjoin questions or non-questions. Under this theory, the cross-linguistic variations in the derivation of AltQs and the distribution of disjunction-markers are captured in terms of the lexicalization patterns of the three disjunctions. For example, Japanese is argued to be a language that does not have an item corresponding to the disjunction that out-scopes the Q-operator. I show that the theory is compatible with three kinds of question semantics, specifically, Karttunen-style semantics, the standard Hamblin semantics and Flexible Hamblin semantics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Art and Craft of Semantics: A Festschrift for Irene Heim
EditorsUli Sauerland, Luka Crnic
Place of PublicationCambridge, MA
PublisherMIT Working Papers in Linguistics
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2014


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