Trivial questions
Bernhard Schwarz, Alexandra Simonenko
February 2018

Oshima (2007) and Abrusán (2011, 2014) offer two competing analyses of so-called factive islands in wh-questions. Both analyses attribute the factive island effect to a pathology of meaning, but they take different views regarding the semantic and pragmatic ingredients of this pathology. On Oshima’s analysis, the perceived ungrammaticality in factive islands is due to a conflict between two felicity conditions on wh-questions. In contrast, without postulating felicity conditions particular to questions, Abrusán credits factive islands to universally projected contradictory presuppositions. After reformulating and fleshing out the two analyses in order to facilitate comparison, we argue that Oshima’s analysis is supported by independent evidence while Abrusán’s is not. This result informs the ongoing debate regarding the proper notion of meaning triviality that induces judgments of ungrammaticality (Gajewski 2009, Abrusán 2014, Del Pinal 2017). It suggests that in order to properly apply to wh-questions, a comprehensive theory of this notion must make reference to felicity conditions on questions, and that meaning-based ungrammaticality cannot uniformly be attributed to the triviality of propositional content.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003350
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: manuscript under review
keywords: factive islands, questions, uninterpretability, triviality and grammar, felicity conditions, presuppositions
previous versions: v1 [March 2017]
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