Uncertainty in polar questions and certainty in answers?

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The paper demonstrates that, in opposition to accepted wisdom, questions often exhibit various degrees of certainty, while answers express different types of uncertainty. The analysis of polar questions and answers draws heavily on the representation of mental states and applies a formal interpretation system (ℛeALIS) capable of handling cognitive notions. Although the paper investigates Hungarian data, the method it applies can be adopted in the examination of similar usages in other languages. The aim of the paper is twofold: on the one hand, it aims at drawing attention to the importance of taking mental states into account in the semantic-pragmatic analysis of polar questioning; on the other hand, it introduces a formal interpretation system suitable for handling pragmatic phenomena.


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