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On polar questions, negation, and the syntactic encoding of epistemicity

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Abstract

This paper focuses mainly on negative polar questions. Following on from the relevant literature, we distinguish between two types of negative polar questions &#8211; those with inner negation and those with outer negation &#8211; showing that each is associated with specific morphosyntactic and semantic properties. Previous studies have revealed that there is a strong correlation between negative polar questions and the notion of epistemicity, based on the hypothesis that a speech act epistemic operator occurs in the syntactic structure of both types of negative polar questions. In this paper, we argue that epistemicity is involved in the derivation of all polar questions, irrespective of their being positive or negative, reflecting the intuition that the speech act of request expresses the uncertainty of the speaker with respect to a certain propositional content. Accordingly, we propose a syntactic derivation of polar questions in which the role of the functional projection encoding epistemicity (<i>EpistP</i>) is central. Finally, we show that the morphosyntactic and semantic properties of negative polar questions stem from the interaction between the proposed structure and negation.

References

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