Question-Answer Clauses: relation to focus

Aurore Gonzalez, Harvard


In American Sign Language (ASL), a construction is found that consists of two parts: a Q-constituent conveying a question and a A-constituent conveying an answer to that question (1). This construction has been called a Question-Answer Clause (QAC) (Caponigro & Davidson 2011). In contrast to a question-answer pair in dialogue, a QAC requires the same person to produce it.

(1) [Q-constituent IX LIKE SALADbrow-raise], [A-constituentNOheadshakeHATE]

While QACs have been argued to be question-answer pairs at the discourse-level (Hoza et al. 1997), I show that polar QACs are embedded question-answer pairs (Caponigro & Davidson 2011). I then explore the hypothesis that QACs are used to express contrastive focus and shows how this can account for the answering of QACs.