Talk by PhD-student Carla Bombi from project “ExQ” in Potsdam

On May 8th, PhD-student Carla Bombi from project “ExQ” in Potsdam will present joint work with Lea Fricke (Graz), Edgar Onea (Graz) and Malte Zimmermann (Potsdam) in the SynSem colloquium. The title of the talk is “Exhaustivity in questions: Two pilot studies on interrogatives embedded under German wissen (know)”

Time and venue: 8th May 2018, 16.15 – 17.45; Potsdam Golm, building 14, room 0.32

The talk is concerned with sentences such as (1), containing an interrogative clause embedded under the factive “know”:
(1) Johannes knows which students failed.
The semantic literature disagrees as to what (1) means, concretely how much Johannes needs to know for (1) to be true: does he have to know of every student that failed that she failed? Or is partial knowledge sufficient? Is knowledge about the set of people who didn’t fail also required? As a result of this debate, a number of so-called “exhaustivity levels” have been posited in the literature, which capture the different conceivable readings of (1). Although there is a consensus that some notion of exhaustivity/completeness is required in this type of sentences, its exact source and the conditions under which it arises are still unclear. Elucidating the readings that are possible and as well as their sources is crucial for understanding the semantics of
(embedded) questions.
In this talk, we present the results of two pilot studies on German interrogatives embedded under “wissen” (“know”). In the first study, the availability of the different “exhaustivity levels” was tested for sentences such as (1) in a truth value judgement task. The second study investigates the sources of exhaustivity in (1). The hypothesis entertained is that two of the readings that have been posited for (1) (the so-called strongly exhaustive and intermediate exhaustive readings) arise as the result of a de re / de dicto ambiguity, i.e. a clash between the knowledege of the reporter of the sentence and the knowledge of the subject (“Johannes” in (1)).