Exclamatives as responses at the syntax-pragmatics interface

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In this paper, we explore exclamatives when used as responses in a discourse. Our proposal is based on the following pragmatic observation: so-called that-exclamatives in both Germanic and Romance languages are preferred as responses to polar questions, while wh-exclamatives are restricted to a response use in non-polar contexts. We establish this data pattern empirically by means of two judgment studies, and we then provide a detailed theoretical account for these challenging new data points. In particular, we show that the differences between the response uses of wh-exclamatives and that-exclamatives can be explained on syntactic grounds, analogous to ‘the syntax of answers’ proposed in recent syntactic work by Holmberg (2013, 2015) at the syntax-pragmatics interface. In sum, we provide a pragmatically more refined view on exclamatives and their use in a discourse, suggesting new empirical distinctions at the syntax-pragmatics interface.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)139-171
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Catalan
  • Exclamatives
  • Experimental pragmatics
  • German
  • Responses
  • Syntax-pragmatics interface


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