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Why is 'Why' Unique?

Its Syntactic and Semantic Properties

Edited by: Gabriela Soare

For some thirty years it has been known that the adjunct ‘why’ differs from other wh-elements with regards to syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The chapters in this collection detail original research on the syntax and semantics of ‘why’ and its function at the syntax-prosody interface in many different languages to further the understanding of the reason adjunct.

The Merge position of ‘why’ is examined in some languages which encode more than one lexical entry and in others which do not. An apparent exception to the generalization about its Merge position calls for a clear-cut distinction between the reason interpretation and the ‘how come’ interpretation of such why-questions. Why-questions formed on the wh-element ‘what’ in some in-situ languages are also investigated; these chapters answer two central questions: what is the source of the casual reading of the post-verbal ‘what’-element, and is the sentence-initial ‘what’-element externally merged in the left periphery?

The chapters in this collection represent the first cross-linguistic study of high and low reason adjuncts, post-verbal ‘what’ as why-questions among in-situ languages, and the semantics of why-rhetorical questions and ‘how come’ questions.

Author Information

Gabriela Soare, Université de Genève, Switzerland.
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Audience: Researchers, Students in Linguistics (and Semiotics)