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Focus and reconstruction effects in wh-phrases

Maribel Romero, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation investigates the semantics and LF-representation of wh-phrases by attending to two phenomena: the effect of Focus in wh-phrases and reconstructed readings ofwh-phrases. First, I exploit the semantics of Focus to show how certain peculiarities of Sluicing follow without the need for special LF-operations, contrary to Chung-Ladusaw-McCloskey (1995). I claim that remnant wh-phrases in a sluiced interrogative clause usually bear focal stress and I define a set of alternative semantic values for a focused wh-Determiner. From this, two consequences follow: the remnant wh-phrase has to contrast with its correlate in the antecedent clause--which derives the restriction on possible correlate phrases--and the denotation of the Sluicing clause and the denotation of the antecedent clause have to be identical in certain respects--which derives the inheritance of content and islands cases. Second, I turn to the question of whether reconstructed readings of how many phrases and which phrases derive from Syntactic Reconstruction (SynR) or from Semantic Reconstruction (SemR). I present two challenges for the SemR account of reconstructed scope readings of how many phrases. First, numerous examples are provided that show that Principle C Connectivity correlates with reconstructed scope readings, a fact which is predicted under the SynR approach and unexpected under the SemR view. Second, I investigate reconstructed scope readings of how many phrases in VP Phonological Reduction and argue that they cannot be derived within the SemR line without generating unwelcome results. Two lines have been pursued in the literature to capture functional readings of which phrases: the choice function approach (Reinhart (1993, 1997)), which involves SynR of the restrictor of the which-phrase, and the skolem function approach (Engdahl (1986)), which amounts to SemR. Again, it is shown that Principle C Connectivity correlates with the embedding needed for the variable to get bound, which supports the SynR approach. However, I present two problems for the current implementation of the choice function SynR line: local presupposition accommodation readings are wrongly excluded, and intensional readings cannot be derived from transparent which phrases. I propose a new architecture of choice functions that derives these new data.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Romero, Maribel, "Focus and reconstruction effects in wh-phrases" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9909213.