Just refuses to answer the QUD

Alex Warstadt, NYU


This talk presents a novel analysis of the discourse particle just. In popular models of discourse, the conversational moves available to a speaker are narrowly constrained by questions under discussion. I propose that just lends a degree of freedom to speakers by providing a mechanism to abstain from addressing QUD. Abstention is formalized as Cohen and Krifka’s (2014) denegation operator which is a generalization of dynamic negation to the speech act domain. Empirical results include an account of Wiegand’s (2016) observation that just rescues trivial answers to questions (1), and a discussion of the role of just in several naturally occurring discourses.

A: Why did Skip stop texting you?
B: They just did! / #They did!

Cohen, Ariel and Manfred Krifka. 2014. Superlative quantifiers and meta-speech acts. Linguistics and Philosophy 37(1):41–90.
Wiegand, Mia. 2016. Just and its meanings: Exclusivity and scales in alternative semantics and speech act theory. Ms. Cornell University