The pragmatics of exhaustivity in embedded questions

  • \(\bf Introduction:\) We present a cross-linguistic experimental study that explores the exhaustivity properties of questions embedded under wissen/to know and korrekt vorhersagen/to correctly predict in German and English. While past theoretical literature has held that such embedded questions should only be interpreted as strongly exhaustive (SE), recent experimental findings suggest an intermediate exhaustive (IE) interpretation is also available and plausible. \(\bf Methods:\) Participants were confronted with a decision problem involving the different exhaustive readings and received a financial incentive based on their performance. We employed Bayesian analysis to create probabilistic models of participants' beliefs, linking their responses to readings based on utility maximization in simple decision problems. \(\bf Results:\) For wissen/to know, we found that the SE reading was most probable in both languages, aligning with early theoretical literature. However, we also attested to the presence of IE readings. For korrekt vorhersagen in German, the IE reading was most probable, whereas for the English phrase "to correctly predict," a preference for the SE reading was observed. \(\bf Discussion:\) This cross-linguistic variation correlates with independent corpus data, indicating that German vorhersagen and English to predict are not lexically equivalent. By including an explicit pragmatic component, our study complements previous work that has focused solely on the principled semantic availability of given readings.

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Author:Lea FrickeGND, Emilie DestruelGND, Malte ZimmermannGND, Edgar OneaGND
Parent Title (English):Frontiers in psychology
Subtitle (English):an experimental comparison of know and predict in German and English
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
Place of publication:Lausanne
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2024/02/26
Date of first Publication:2023/09/13
Publishing Institution:Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universitätsbibliothek
Tag:Open Access Fonds
English; German; embedded questions; exhaustivity; experimental pragmatics; probabilistic modeling
Issue:Article 1148275
First Page:1148275-1
Last Page:1148275-20
Article Processing Charge funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
Institutes/Facilities:Germanistisches Institut
Dewey Decimal Classification:Sprache / Sprache, Linguistik
open_access (DINI-Set):open_access
faculties:Fakultät für Philologie
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY 4.0 - Attribution 4.0 International