Nandao-Questions as a Special Kind of Rhetorical Questions

Beibei Xu


This paper addresses the syntax and semantics of a special kind of Rhetorical Questions (RQs) in Mandarin, i.e. questions with nandao (nandao-Q). Nandao-Qs necessarily have rhetorical question readings. To derive this, I propose that nandao is a WH-word which takes a question denoting a single proposition and turns it into a set with the complement proposition. This analysis differs significantly from earlier proposals for deriving RQ meanings as asserting the negation of the proposition denoted by its IP (cf. Sadock 1979, Han 2002, a.o.). The degenerate question nature of nandao-Q can explain why nandao-Q unlike Ordinary Questions (OQs) cannot be embedded under [+wh] selecting words like wen and zhidao.


rhetorical questions; nandao-Q; degenerate question; Mandarin

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