GENGO KENKYU (Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan)
Online ISSN : 2185-6710
Print ISSN : 0024-3914
On the Scope and Focus of Questions in Japanese A Radical Pragmatic View
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1993 Volume 1993 Issue 104 Pages 128-156


The aim of this paper is to reexamine, from the radical pragmatic point of view, the theoretical domains in which the phenomena of the scope, focus and presupposition of questions in Japanese should be described. Although a large number of studies have been conducted on these phenomena, most of them characterize them in syntactic terms.
I define the term “interrogative sentence” to refer to a type of sentence, and “question” to refer to a kind of (verbal or non-verbal) action. Given these definitions, my claim is as follows: Interrogative sentences should be described in syntax, and questions in pragmatics.
Through examining what this claim entails, we find that, contrary to some prior studies (e.g. Kuno 1983; Takubo 1985), there is no direct evidence to support that the syntactic scope of questions exists, and furthermore, that the facts which these researchers used as evidence for the existence of the syntactic scope can be accounted for by making a clear distinction between “grammaticality” and “acceptability”. It is, therefore, concluded that the syntactic scope of questions does not exist.
This approach is superior to the prior approach in the following two respects: First, by not accepting the existence of the scope with respect to questions, two exceptions to the scope restriction, WH-words and MC focus, cease to be exceptions. Secondly, the approach taken here suggests a possibility of describing such pragmatic phenomena as the focus and the presupposition of questions in purely pragmatic terms.

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