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Weak Island Semantics$
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Márta Abrusán

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199639380

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199639380.001.0001

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Wh-Islands*

Wh-Islands*

Chapter:
(p.135) 4 Wh-Islands*
Source:
Weak Island Semantics
Author(s):

Márta Abrusán

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199639380.003.0004

This chapter proposes that the maximal informativity requirement can also explain why wh-islands arise. The first part of the chapter discusses degree questions. In Section 4.2 I show that verbs fall into different subclasses with respect to the question whether they introduce weak islands or not. Degree questions with responsive predicates such as know, can never receive a maximally informative answer, and are thus unacceptable in any context. Degree questions with inquisitive predicates such as wonder, however, are not derived to be ungrammatical; nevertheless, they are predicted to have a most informative true answer only in very special and unnatural contexts, which renders them pragmatically odd. Once such a context is supplied, the questions improve. In the first case the unacceptability of wh-islands can be derived both by using the classical- and the interval-based degree semantics. Section 4.3 discusses the case of context sensitivity of degree wh-islands as well as the cases of modal obviation. Section 4.4 examines wh-islands with manner questions. In sum, this chapter suggests that Kroch’s (1989) informal account of wh-islands, introduced in Chapter 1 of this book, was on the right track, and provides an explanation for why in certain cases most informative answers are impossible or contextually restricted.

Keywords:   weak islands, wh-islands, semantics of questions, semantics of question-embedding words, intervention, locality principles

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