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Bookmark and Share Paper 3014

The Role of Focus Particles in Wh-Interrogatives: Evidence from a Southern Ryukyuan Language
Christopher Davis
124-133 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper examines the use of the focus particle du in wh-interrogatives in the Miyaran dialect of Yaeyaman (a southern Ryukyuan language spoken on Ishigaki and surrounding islands in Southwestern Okinawa). I propose a semantic account of several distributional properties of du, including the fact that its use is mandatory with wh-phrases in core argument positions, optional for wh-phrases in non-argument positions, and generally limited to one per clause. I argue that the use of du is associated with a higher operator that marks the material in its scope as contextually given. Marking a constituent with du allows material to escape the domain of givenness determined by this higher operator. I then show that, under a Hamblin semantics of questions, a wh-phrase must escape the domain of givenness to give a sensible question interpretation, and that constituents in core argument positions require du-marking to escape the givenness domain, while non-arguments can escape it without du-marking. This accounts for the fact that du-marking is mandatory for argument wh-phrases and optional for non-argument wh-phrases. It is further shown that in multiple wh-questions only one wh-phrase need be marked with du to derive a sensible interpretation, and that multiple du-marked constituents may be blocked due to an expressive intervention effect.

Published in

Proceedings of the 31st West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Robert E. Santana-LaBarge
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00