Derive the biased reading of A-not-A questions in Mandarin


  • Yaxuan Wang Michigan State University



biased questions, high negation questions, polar questions


Among many forms of A-not-A questions in Mandarin Chinese, the shi-not-shi question is found to be unique in that it obligatorily gives rise to a biased reading toward its prejacent, so-called positive bias. The previous pragmatic approach by Ye (2020) establishes a link between focus in polar questions and question bias to explain this biased reading. However, the current study finds that two other A-not-A questions formed by epistemic modals, hui-not-hui and keneng-not-keneng which are not focus markers, obligatorily produce positively biased readings as well. I propose that biased A-not-A questions are a type of high-negation questions with A-not-A residing outside of TP. shi, hui and keneng should all be analyzed as epistemic modals which are the overt realization of Goodhue’s (2019) epistemic operator scoped by the negator. The positively biased reading is derived from the resulting unbalanced partition based on general pragmatic principles. This analysis from the semantic aspect provides new evidence for the argument that the first A has reality only in PF. Furthermore, the Mandarin Chinese data lends evidence to Goodhue’s (2019) argument that there exists a doxastic speech operator between NegP and TP in high negation questions. The paper also provides explanations for previously remaining questions on bias cancelation by the stress marker daodi and factive predicates like zhidao (“know”).




How to Cite

Wang, Yaxuan. 2024. “Derive the Biased Reading of A-Not-A Questions in Mandarin”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 9 (1): 5666.