Rhetorical questions, relevance and scales

Javier Gutiérrez Rexach

Abstract

Rhetorical questions, and other varieties of pragmatically conditioned questions, present a challenge for a purely truth-conditional theory of the interpretation of interrogatives. In this paper, it is argued that relevance-theoretic principles account for the conditions of use of rhetorical questions. Concretely, it is proposed that a pragmatic principle, the "Bottom of Scale Principle", critically interacts with the Principle of Relevance and derives the dynamic meaning of the rhetorical use of a question. The Bottom of Scale Principle is also associated with the particular entailment and monotonicity properties of interrogatives, which explain the ability of rhetorical questions to license negative polarity items.

Keywords

Interrogación retórica; Lingüística comparada; Análisis del discurso; Teoría de la relevancia; Usos lingüísticos; Negación; Polaridad negativa; Análisis semántico-pragmático



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.1998.11.11

Copyright (c) 1998 Javier Gutiérrez Rexach

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