Rhetorical wh-questions differing in inquisitiveness: Support from Mandarin prosody

  • Angelika Kiss
  • Roger Yu-Hsiang Lo


Rhetorical questions are in many respects both question-like and assertion-like, and have been analyzed either as questions or assertions. Building on Farkas and Roelofsen (2017), we propose a unified account of rhetorical and information-seeking wh-questions in inquisitive semantics, where we are no longer forced to choose between these labels. Rhetorical questions that suggest that the answer is the empty set (‘nobody’ to a question with who) are compared to ones that suggest a non-empty set as their answer. We assign the same basic conventional discourse effects to the two types of rhetorical questions as for information-seeking questions, but posit different special discourse effects, which signal differences in speaker commitment. Special effects are signaled by a marked form, such as by a non-canonical intonation. We argue that the prosodic marking of Mandarin wh-interrogatives, whether used as a genuine or rhetorical question, is consistent with our analysis.
How to Cite
Kiss, A., & Lo, R. Y.-H. (2021). Rhetorical wh-questions differing in inquisitiveness: Support from Mandarin prosody. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 25, 480-496. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2021.v25i0.949