D-linking and the semantics of wh-in-situ

Joshua Martin


Theories of pair-list readings of multiple wh-questions commonly posit an interpretive asymmetry between the fronted and in-situ wh-phrases, where the fronted wh-phrase is argued to function as the sortal key, have a requirement to be interpreted exhaustively, or be obligatorily D-linked. To clarify the empirical landscape of such debate, I present three experiments which tease apart the effects of these often-confounded discourse factors on the order and interpretation of multiple wh-questions. They are found to have either inconsistent or insignificant effects, arguing against a unique discourse-sensitivity of the fronted wh-phrase. Theories of questions which encode such an asymmetry should accordingly be revised.


question semantics; multiple wh-questions; d-linking; discourse structure; contrastive topic; experimental semantics

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v6i1.4981

Copyright (c) 2021 Joshua Robert Martin

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