Deriving dual dimensions of bias: preposed negation questions with even-type expressions

Sunwoo Jeong, Princeton


Polar interrogatives with preposed negation (PNQs) convey positive epistemic bias (e.g., ‘Didn't Mr. Carmichael help?’). Polar interrogatives with even-type expressions (even-Qs), including prosodically stressed NPIs (e.g., ANYTHING) and minimizer NPIs (e.g., lift a finger) convey negative epistemic bias and often have a rhetorical flavor (e.g, ‘Did Mr. Carmichael lift a finger to help?’, ‘Did Mr. Carmichael bring ANYTHING?’). In this talk, I examine a hybrid PQ construction that involves both a preposed negation and an even-type expression, which I call even-PNQs (e.g., ‘Don’t you know ANYTHING?’, ‘Didn’t he lift a finger to help?’). I first present a series of experimental studies that demonstrates that even-PNQs are characterized by complex, dual dimensions of bias contributed compositionally by both the preposed negation on the one hand and the even-type expression on the other. I then argue that these emerging empirical observations impose certain constraints on, and generate additional desiderata for, the analysis of preposed negation questions, the analysis of even-type rhetorical questions, and the analysis of minimizer/stressed NPIs. I explore these theoretical implications and propose a compositional analysis of even-PNQs.