A minimal theory of verum focus and context dependent bias in questions
Daniel Goodhue
August 2018

I argue that verum focus (VF, Höhle 1992) is a focus effect that can be explained as polarity focus via a general theory of focus (e.g. Rooth 1992, Schwarzschild 1999, Büring 2016). This is in opposition to the view that VF is not actually a focus effect at all, but is instead a grammatical VERUM operator (Romero & Han 2004, Gutzmann & Castroviejo Miró 2011, Repp 2013, Gutzmann et al. submitted). There are three main empirical facts about VF that I will seek to explain (section 2). First, VF displays discourse licensing requirements, in particular it requires the right antecedent to be present, much like other focus effects. Second, VF emphasizes the truth of the proposition it appears with. Third, VF in polar questions gives rise to context dependent epistemic bias. I will argue that the third fact can be explained entirely by well-motivated assumptions about pragmatics without relying on any special meaning for VF (section 3). I will also argue that a focus account of VF provides a simpler and more complete account of the first two facts than operator accounts (section 4). Along the way, I will point out challenges facing operator accounts.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004166
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: The Proceedings of the North East Linguistics Society (NELS)
keywords: verum focus, polarity focus, epistemic bias, biased questions, polar questions, focus, emphasis, semantics, phonology
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