Programme Hubert Curien Procope

2019-2021, Principal Investigator

Programme n°42412PC, with Andreas Trotzke (U. of Konstanz), 7000€, Surprise Questions from a Comparative Perspective. The aim of this linguistic project is to break new ground in the treatment of non-canonical questions from a cross-linguistic perspective, with a focus on French, English, Estonian and German. This is done through exploring how semantic and pragmatic factors affect the meaning of interrogative sentences and how modal components and information structure interact with the speech act of questioning. By ‘non-canonical’ questions we mean questions that do not request information from the addressee, but rather tell us something about the speaker’s epistemic and emotional state. In this project, we will investigate questions used in reaction to an unexpected extralinguistic or discourse event. Although recent research has seen a rapid development of our knowledge about non-canonical questions (e.g., Dayal 2016), questions expressing surprise have so far not been explored in detail from a comparative perspective (see, however, Obenauer 2004, 2006 and Giorgi 2016 for studies on individual languages). More specifically, we will focus on two forms of realization of what we call ‘surprise questions’: (i) cases where the exclamative interpretation of a question is not associated with a marked syntactic configuration but only conveyed via special prosody and (ii) cases where we can identify a dedicated syntactic configuration for expressing the surprise interpretation.