Journal of Semantics 28 (1):107-147 (2011)

Benjamin Spector
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Márta Abrusán
Institut Jean Nicod
According to the standard analysis of degree questions, the logical form of a degree question contains a variable that ranges over individual degrees and is bound by the degree question operator how. In contrast with this, we claim that the variable bound by the degree question operator how does not range over individual degrees but over intervals of degrees, by analogy with Schwarzschild and Wilkinson's proposal regarding the semantics of comparative clauses. Not only does the interval-based semantics predict the existence of certain readings that are not predicted under the standard view, it is also able, together with other natural assumptions, to account for the sensitivity of degree questions to negative islands, as well as for the fact, uncovered by Fox and Hackl, that negative islands can be obviated by some properly placed modals. Like Fox and Hackl, we characterize negative island effects as arising from the fact that the relevant question, due to its meaning alone, can never have a maximally informative answer. Contrary to Fox and Hackl, however, we do not need to assume that scales are universally dense, nor that the notion of maximal informativity responsible for negative islands is blind to contextual parameters.
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DOI 10.1093/jos/ffq013
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References found in this work BETA

Free Choice Disjunction and Epistemic Possibility.Thomas Ede Zimmermann - 2000 - Natural Language Semantics 8 (4):255-290.
The Universal Density of Measurement.Danny Fox & Martin Hackl - 2006 - Linguistics and Philosophy 29 (5):537 - 586.
Polar Opposition and the Ontology of 'Degrees'.Christopher Kennedy - 2001 - Linguistics and Philosophy 24 (1):33-70.

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Citations of this work BETA

Intervention Effects and Additivity.Clemens Mayr - 2014 - Journal of Semantics 31 (4):fft010.
Questions with NPIs.Andreea C. Nicolae - 2015 - Natural Language Semantics 23 (1):21-76.
Semantics of DP Islands: The Case of Questions.Alexandra Simonenko - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics:ffv011.

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