Biased Questions: Experimental Results & Theoretical Modelling

Organizer(s) Krifka, Manfred, Kazuko Yatsushiro & Tue Trinh
Start of event 04.02.2021, 10.00 o'clock
End of event 05.02.2021, 19.00 o'clock
Venue ZOOM Conference

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The classical approaches towards the semantics of questions such as Hamblin (1973) and Groenendijk & Stokhof (1984), which modelled questions in terms of their possible answers, did not account for the ways in which questions can express bias towards or against particular answers. But work such as Bolinger (1978) on polar and alternative questions, Ladd (1982) on negation in questions, Gunlogson (2001) on declarative questions and van Rooij (2003) on questions with negative polarity items has brought to attention the manifold ways in which speakers can indicate that one of the answers sticks out because it is expected, unexpected, desired, or relevant. It is an empirical challenge to identify the various ways in which languages can mark biases, e.g. by particles, syntactic structure, and prosody, often in combination, and to identify the contexts in which such biased questions can be used. It is a theoretical challenge to model the expressions within a theory of semantics, pragmatics and discourse that considers the syntactic, morphological, lexical and prosodic forms in which such biases are expressed.

The ERC Project SPAGAD: Speech Acts in Grammar and Discourse invites to a workshop on biased questions that focuses on (a) experimental results concerning the conditions of use of questions that express a bias towards particular answers, and (b) on the theoretical modelling of such questions that includes morphological markers, discourse particles, specialized syntactic structure, prosody and gestures. The workshop will be carried out online, as a ZOOM conference. It is currently planned that the workshop will take place on February 4 – 5, 2021.

The following scholars have agreed to present their work on question bias:

  • María Biezma
  • Bettina Braun & Maribel Romero
  • Veneeta Dayal
  • Regine Eckardt
  • Daniel Goodhue
  • Beata Gyuris
  • Yurie Hara
  • Pilar Prieto
  • Sophie Repp
  • Floris Roelofsen

We call for additional submissions for presentations on this topic (30 minutes talk). Anonymous abstracts of 2 pages maximum should be submitted as pdf files, named by the title of the abstract, by January 1, 2021, to the address, with the subject: “Biased Questions”.  If you want to participate without presenting a talk, please REGISTER by sending an email to with your name and affiliation.