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On wh-exclamatives and gradability: An argument from Romance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2019

Ikerbasque and UPV/EHU
Author’s address: Centro de Investigación Micaela Portilla Ikergunea (UPV/EHU), Justo Vélez de Elorriaga, 1, 01006 - Vitoria-Gasteiz,


This paper discusses a type of wh-exclamative whose wh-component and degree component do not seem to go hand in hand. These are wh-exclamatives in Catalan whose moved wh-phrase is headed by the determiner quin ‘what, which’, and whose NP contains an optional DegP headed by tan ‘so’ or més ‘more’. By taking a closer look at these wh-exclamatives, we will be able to contribute to the debate on the role of gradability and of the wh-component in the semantics of wh-exclamatives. My claim is that the DegP in these wh-exclamatives leaves behind a degree variable that is ultimately bound by an expressive speech act operator. Following Castroviejo (2006) and building on Rett (2009), I adhere to the claim that wh-exclamatives in Catalan are necessarily scalar as a requirement of the expressive operator. Moreover, as a downward-monotonic operator, I show that it licenses upward-directed inferences, which ensures that wh-exclamatives express unexpectedness toward a high degree.

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press 2019

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I am indebted to three anonymous JoL reviewers, who have thoroughly and critically read the previous versions of this paper. This is – hopefully – a much clearer and sensible article thanks to them. Of course, I am fully responsible for any remaining mistakes. This research has been partially supported by project VASTRUD (PGC2018-096870-B-I00), funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MiCIU) / Spanish Research Agency (AEI) and the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER, UE), the IT1396-19 Research Group (Basque Government), and UFI11/14 (University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU).


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