Cremers, Alexandre and Emmanuel Chemla (2014). “A psycholinguistic study of the exhaustive readings for embedded questions”. Manuscript, LSCP.

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[BibTeX reference]

Abstract: What is the semantic content of a question? As pointed out by Karttunen (1977), declarative sentences that embed interrogative complements (such as “John knows which students called”) can provide relatively easy access to the semantics of questions. Recent theories attribute different readings to such sentences and their predictions depend in various ways on the embedding verb (‘know’ in this example). Through a series of four experiments, we provide quantitative offline data to evaluate critical judgments from the literature. We show that the so-called strongly exhaustive reading is not the only available reading for ‘know’, providing an argument against approaches inspired by Groenendijk and Stokhof (1982, 1984). We also describe processing data which may further constrain theories, provided hypotheses about the derivation processes are made explicit.

Keywords: Embedded questions; experiment.