A Hamblin Semantics for Alternative Questions in Yoruba

  • Anna Howell

Abstract

Alternative and polar question interpretations of disjunctive questions in Yoruba (Niger-Congo, Nigeria) are syntactically disambiguated by obligatory fronting of the disjunction in the case of alternative but not of polar questions to a focus position  at the left edge of the clause. This paper investigates the role of focus fronting and the accompanying focus particle ni in the compositional derivation of the alternative  question set as well as for the triggering of a presupposition requiring mutual exclusivity of the two alternative propositions in the question set. The main claim is that movement to a designated focus position licenses the generation of alternatives which compose with the rest of the material in the question via Hamblin Function Application to derive an alternative question interpretation.  The focus particle ni is argued to contribute  a homogeneity presupposition both in alternative questions and elsewhere in the language which, when applied pointwise to each alternative in the question set, derives the mutual exclusivity requirement. The proposal developed here for Yoruba supports a view under which focus (marking the generation of alternatives) plays a stable role in deriving alternative question interpretations crosslinguistically, but differences in the semantic contribution  of focus markers may yield subtle differences in the presuppositions they carry.
How to Cite
Howell, A. (1). A Hamblin Semantics for Alternative Questions in Yoruba. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 20, 359-376. Retrieved from https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/sub/index.php/sub/article/view/269