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Auteur: Takashi TOYOSHIMA

The exjunction Ka: existential V disjunction

Abstract/Résumé: McCawley (1981) suggests a possibility of unifying the semantics of conjunctions and quantifiers, both as operators applying to a set of propositions — conjunctions to a set of enumerated propositions and quantifiers to a set of propositional descriptions. Universal quantification is equivalent to conjunction, and existential quantification to disjunction. Although possible in logic, natural languages usually employ distinct words to express conjunctions and quantifiers, such as and\all and or\some in English. The Japanese particle -ka is a single logical word that embodies the unified semantics of existential and disjunction. When suffixed to “indeterminates,” it functions as an existential quantifier, with an indeterminate serving as a variable (Kuroda 1965). (1)a. Dare-ka ga kita. ‘Someone came.’ (1)b. John ga nani-ka o kata. ‘John bought something.’ When suffixed to other than indeterminate expressions, it denotes disjunction. (2)a. Ano gakusei-ka Mary-ka kare ga kita. (2)b. Mary wa kokoni ita-ka kita. ‘Mary has been (here) or came here.’ (2a) can be rephrased as disjunctions of full clauses as follows: (3) Ano gakusei ga kita-ka Mary ga kita-ka kare ga kita. ‘That student came, Mary came, or he came.’ When -ka is suffixed to the end of (3), the whole sentence is interpreted as a question. (4) Ano gakusei ga kita-ka Mary ga kita-ka kare ga kita-ka? ‘Did that student come, did Mary come, or did he come?’ This is an alternative question, a set of disjunctive propositions, and a single simplex sentence suffixed with the particle -ka yields a yes/no-question. (5) Mary wa kita-ka? ‘Did Mary come?’ Karttunen (1977) considers yes/no-questions as ‘degenerate’ alternative questions of disjunction with the negated alternative. (6) Mary wa kita-ka Mary wa konakatta-ka? ‘Did Mary come or didn’t Mary come?’ Developing Hamblin’s (1973) semantics for questions, Kurttunen claims that a question denotes a set of propositions expressed by true answers to the question. Further, Karttunen proposes that wh-questions are derived by (existentially) quantifying wh-phrases into propositions that form a set for the semantics of questions. The particle -ka suffixed to the end of a sentence that contains an indeterminate expression is interpreted as a wh-question. (7) Dare ga kita-ka? ‘Who came?’ Where the indeterminate expression is also suffixed with -ka, the result is an existential yes/no-question. (8) Dare-ka ga kita-ka? ‘Did anyone come?’ In these manners, the Japanese particle -ka is the exjunction (existential ⋁ disjunction) operator that applies to a set of propositions, and when suffixed to the end of a (conjoined) sentence, it bears an interrogative force.