How Questions and Answers Cohere

In: Proceedings of SemDial

Mandy Simons

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Simons, M. (2015). How Questions and Answers Cohere.

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Simons, Mandy. “How Questions and Answers Cohere” (2015).

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Simons, Mandy. How Questions and Answers Cohere. 2015.

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  title = {How Questions and Answers Cohere},
  year = {2015},
  author = {Simons, Mandy}


This is a short manuscript, the content of which I presented in various talks in 2014 and 2015. It's a topic I hope to get back to some day...


When a syntactically complete sentence is uttered in answer to a wh-question, the asserted content may go beyond what is compositionally derivable from the sentence uttered. This paper provides an account of this observation, arguing that the Direct Answer relation is semantically significant. When a discourse segment is construed as a direct answer, special update rules apply. The content derivable from the surface form of the answer is merged with the content of the question using a procedure to be specified. For the Direct Answer relation to be licensed, the merge procedure must result in assignment of a value to the wh-variable in the question, which is treated here as a forward looking anaphor. This constraint gives content to the notion of Direct Answerhood.

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