AcqVA Colloquium (NTNU) – Fall 2020

Here is a list of talks for Fall 2020. The talks will take place either virtually on Zoom, or on Dragvoll campus.

October 27th, 14.00 – Colloquium on Zoom

Professor Christina Tortora,City University of New York

What-marked Yes-No questions in New York City English

In this talk (work with Jason Bishop), I describe and analyze the syntactic properties of a non-canonical Yes-No question in New York City English, which I’ll refer to as the “what-marked Yes-No question.” Consider (1) versus (2):

(1) Did he grow up on Staten Island? (a true Y-N question)
(2) What did he, grow up on Staten Island? (a what-marked Y-N question)

The sentence in (1) is a true question — a genuine request for information. In contrast, the question in (2) — used by New York City English speakers — conveys that the hearer knows or believes that the answer to the question is Yes. It is therefore a rhetorical question, though in discourse it leaves open an invitation to the hearer to expand on a topic. As a rhetorical question, it can also be used sarcastically (e.g., What am I, an idiot? What are you, some kind of a jack-ass?), but it is not restricted to such contexts (v. (2)).

In addition to the meaning and function of the what-marked Yes-No question, there are several restrictions on its form that set it apart from other kinds of interrogatives in English: (a) it has particular prosodic characteristics; (b) it allows pronominal subjects only; (c) it allows positive polarity only; (d) it allows non-modal auxiliaries only; (e) it allows non-contracted auxiliaries only; and (f) it allows only the wh-phrase “what”, regardless of the focus in the second part of the question. In this talk I discuss the restrictions in (b-f), with an eye towards understanding the syntactic structure of what-marked Yes-No questions, and how this structure reflects their meaning.


Previous semesters

Fall 2019 and Spring 2020

Spring 2019

Fall 2018

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