Exploring the connection between Question Under Discussion and scalar diversity

Eszter Ronai, Ming Xiang


Previous research has revealed that different scalar expressions give rise to scalar inferences (SIs) at different rates. This variation has been termed scalar diversity. In this study, we investigate the role of Questions Under Discussion (QUDs) in explaining this variation in SI rates. Investigating 43 different scalar expressions, we first show that explicit QUDs robustly affect calculation rates: questions based on the stronger of two scalar terms lead to higher SI rates than questions promoting the weaker one. Second, we explore whether the likelihood of asking the stronger question in general (Question Availability) can explain the scalar diversity effect. Our results suggest that Question Availability is indeed a predictor of scalar diversity, but only for scales where both terms denote intervals (unbounded scales), and not for scales where the stronger member has a fixed meaning (bounded scales).


experimental pragmatics; Question Under Discussion; scalar inference; scalar diversity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v6i1.5001

Copyright (c) 2021 Eszter Ronai, Ming Xiang

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