Or not Alternative Questions, Focus and Discourse Structure

Maribel Romero, Erlinde Meertens, Andrea Beltrama


Or not alternative questions like Are you coming or not? give rise to so-called ‘cornering effects’ (Biezma 2009), consisting of two parts: (i) they cannot appear discourse-initially, and (ii) they do not allow for follow-up questions. Building on recent experimental data (Beltrama, Meertens & Romero 2020), the present paper raises problems for current analyses (Biezma 2009, Biezma & Rawlins 2012, 2018), reframes the second part of cornering as not specific to NAQs but as a general constraint on questions in general, and develops a novel proposal for the first part of cornering. The key ingredients of the new proposal are the intrinsic focus structure of or not questions and its effects on discourse trees.


alternative question; polar question; cornering; focus; polarity; negation; discourse structure

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/elm.1.5026

Copyright (c) 2021 Maribel Romero, Erlinde Meertens, Andrea Beltrama

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