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Title: Yes or no?: The complex semantics of a simple question
Contributor(s): Goddard, Cliff (author)
Publication Date: 2002
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Abstract: This short paper investigates the semantics of yes/no questions, using the reductive paraphrase methodology of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage theory (Wierzbicka 1996, Goddard and Wierzbicka 2002). This topic may strike some people as an odd one. To judge from the literature, linguists generally seem to think that there are no real problems with yes/no questions, at least not compared with their much-studied cousins, the wh-questions. I will try to show that the apparent simplicity of yes/no questions is illusory, and that yes/no questions can be decomposed – both semantically and syntactically – into simpler structures. I will also be asking how it is that such questions can presuppose or invite an answer in the form of yes or no, which in turn means asking: What are the meanings of yes and no themselves? Many people would assume that they must be universals (cf. the quotation from Swedish philosopher Tore Nordenstam above), but this assumption is challenged by the existence of multiple "yes words" and "no words" in some languages and by their non-existence in other languages.
Publication Type: Conference Publication
Conference Name: Australian Linguistic Society Conference 2002 , Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 13 - 14 July 2002
Conference Details: Australian Linguistic Society Conference 2002 , Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 13 - 14 July 2002
Source of Publication: Proceedings of the 2002 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society, p. 1-7
Publisher: University of New South Wales
Place of Publication: Online
Field of Research (FOR): 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: E1 Refereed Scholarly Conference Publication
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