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Third meeting: Questions and discourse structure

General information


11-12 March 2013


Berlin (ZAS) (exact place to come)

Useful information

We recommend one of the following hotels:

The last three hotels are in walking distance to the ZAS, the first two are a bit further away, but they are located in more interesting parts of town and you can get to ZAS by using the metro lines U8 and then U2 (change at Alexanderplatz)

Notice that we can only pay for 3 nights: 10-13 March. Especially for people who come from the United States, early flight booking is recommended. Remember also that due to DGFS regulations we can only cover the travel costs for members. Associates need to take care of the travel costs themselves.

Travel information.
Link to google maps.


Prelimary Program

10th March
Evening warm-up.

11th March
9-9:30 introduction
9-12 two invited talks
12-13:30 lunch break
13:30-18:00 talks on various topics
19– meeting dinner (probably in Prenzlauer Berg)

12th March
9-12:30 talks on questions and particles
12:30-13:30 lunch
13:30-15:00 closed circle discussion on Questions and Focus (and practical issues: publications, next meeting etc.)
15-19 joint activity in Berlin

Topics to be discussed

(this text is from the application: please contribute)

We wish to consider the theoretical benefits and problems of structuring discourse by means of question hierarchies, which are partly motivated by considerations from information structure (Büring 2003). For one thing, we wish to compare the existing analysis of discourse particles in question-based discourse models with other competing analyses. In addition, we wish to discuss the relation between question-based discourse models and discourse models based on discourse relations, such as SDRT. One particular question we have in mind is to explore to what extent these two kinds of discourse representation can be thought of as being compatible, or even equivalent. This also leads to a theoretical discussion about the way in which overt questions relate to implicit questions in discourse structuring, and more generally to the question of how the new way of thinking about questions in inquisitive semantics relates to more elaborate discourse models.

Summary of the talks


Floris Roelofsen: An inquisitive perspective on meaning: the case of disjunction.

The first part of the talk showed a way to treat disjunction as generating alternatives (as argued for in current research) while still retaining the classical view of disjunction as an (Heyting-)algebraic join operator. This follows if one assumes an inquisitive framework and models propositions as non-empty, downward closed sets of sets of possible worlds. The second part of the talk discussed disjunctive lists. Floris argues that their interpretation can be explained via four operations: list completion, exclusive strengthening, presuppositional closure, and non-inquisitive closure, where the intonation (phrase boundaries, final rise/fall) and the syntactic form (interrogative/declarative) determine which operation is performed in which order.

Henk Zeevat: From Particles to Questions

Henk Zeevat argued that certain constructions indicate questions, but questions which are not necessarily the immediate question under discussion. Constructions discussed include numerals, quantifiers, the focus-sensitive particles “too” and “only”, and “already” and “doch”. He discussed each construction in turn, providing examples for their conditions of use.

Dan Velleman: Towards a focus typology of Mayan languages.

Dan Velleman showed that the Mayan language K'ichee' exhibits a focus asymmetry between focused transitive subjects and other focused DPs (including focused intransitive subjects): (i) focused transitive subjects require leftward movement (from canonical VOS word order), whereas other focused DPs can remain in-situ, (ii) with transitive subjects (but not other DPs), this movement is accompanied by a morphological marker. Daniel presented a discourse explanation for (i), namely that there is an asymmetry wrt what QUDs are asked about: in QUDs, objects are more likely to be asked for than subjects, and transitive subjects more likely than intransitive subjects. The asymmetry in (ii) is explained as a morphosyntactic reflex of movement, as it also occurs e.g. in relative clauses.

Daniel Valle: Focus-sensitive particles in Kakataibo (Pano)

Daniel Valle discusses the focus-sensitive operators =ribi (“also”, “even”) and =in (“only”) in the Panoan language Kakataibo, based on data from texts and elicitation using the Questionnaire of Focus Semantics (Renans et al. 2011). These operators are clitics, they attach to their associate NPs, in canonical word order (SOV, but relatively free). When their associate is a verb or VP, it attaches to the direct object. The additive =ribi can associate with connectors (=in cannot); both can attach occur together, in either order (but with different semantic effect). Valle (using tests of associating the operators with “someone” and leaners) analyses them both as conventional association with focus.

3rd.txt · Last modified: 2013/03/21 11:42 by mira