Japanese alternative questions are disjunctions of polar questions

Wataru Uegaki


We discuss the syntax and semantics of Japanese alternative questions (AltQs), and argue that they are underlyingly disjoined polar questions (PolQs). The argument is based on the following three observations: (i) the minimum syntactic size of a disjunct in a Japanese AltQ is VP or clausal, (ii) sentential operators above the disjunction in an AltQ are never interpreted in both disjuncts, and (iii) the clause-final particle in an AltQ has to be matched with the particle at the end of the first disjunct. It will be shown that these facts receive straightforward explanations under the analysis that treats Japanese AltQs as disjoined PolQs while they are problematic in a scoping analysis. We also propose a compositional semantics associated with the analysis, and address a potential problem regarding the intervention effect.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/salt.v24i0.2423