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Willemijn Vermaat, Victoria University of Wellington


Continuing on questions to get an answer


Archway 2 - 1:00 pm, Friday 23 March


In previous work, I have developed an analysis of wh-questions in type-logical grammar showing that questions control their answers. Wh-questions such as "What did you see from the top of the hill?" or "Where did you give a talk?" carry information on the type of phrases that serve as possible answers to these questions: a generalized quantifier phrase, "A lot of sheep", or an adverbial phrase, "At Otago University", respectively. The proposal was to analyze questions and answers as a syntactic unit, a declarative clause, whereas semantically they are interpreted as a proposition. A more sensible approach would be to look at questions and answers from a dynamic perspective and view answers as a `continuation' of a dialogue.

Continuations are a well-known technique in functional programming and have been studied in various type logics. Incorporating the answer type into the type assigned to wh-questions fits the idea of continuations. In a question-answer sequence, the answer could be seen as a continuation of the preceding context, the question. The idea of continuations can be exploited further by incorporating the context preceding the wh-question in the type of wh-questions. The meaning of a wh-question, thus, abstracts over the meaning of its left and right contexts. In this talk we will explore the use of continuations for analyzing wh-questions.

Last modified: Thursday, 28-Jul-2005 17:23:30 NZST

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