Answering implicit questions: the case of namely

Scott AnderBois, Pauline Jacobson


Though several prior works use English namely as evidence for the semantics of other elements, its own syntax and semantics have been mostly unexamined. In this paper, we focus on two central questions which we claim to be interrelated. First, what is the semantic contribution of namely? Second, how does namely combine with the surrounding material compositionally to produce appropriate overall sentence meanings? Given the apparent similarity of namely to fragments and Sluicing, one answer suggested in previous literature (e.g. Onea & Volodina (2011), Weir (2014), Ott (2016)) is that an example like Someone coughed, namely Bill. involves deletion of silent linguistic material . . . Bill coughed. Here, we argue against this idea, arguing that namely introduces an answer to an implicit specificational question combining with its complement (i.e. Bill in the above example) directly, similar to Qu-Ans analysis of fragments (Groenendijk & Stokhof (1984), Jacobson (2016)).

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