While how questions typically query the manner, method, or instrument of an event, some English how questions are used to express extreme surprise that the proposition under how holds at all: e.g., How is Chili's still open?. This paper presents a syntactic and semantic analysis of these 'propositional how questions' (PHQs). It is proposed that unlike ordinary how questions, PHQs have: (i) how initially merged in Spec,CP (with no wh-movement), and (ii) a covert VERUM operator in C. This analysis accounts for a number of distinct features of PHQs, including the fact that they allow sentential negation without weak-island effects (e.g., How has it not snowed yet this winter?) but nevertheless resist Neg contraction (*? How hasn't it snowed yet this winter?).
Proceedings of the 34th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Aaron Kaplan, Abby Kaplan, Miranda K. McCarvel, and Edward J. Rubin
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