This book is concerned with the meaning and use of two kinds of declarative
1) It's raining?
2) It's raining.
The difference between (1) and (2) is intonational: (1) has a final
rise--indicated by the question mark--while (2) ends with a fall.
Christine Gunlogson's central claim is that the meaning and use of both
kinds of sentences must be understood in terms of the meaning of their
defining formal elements, namely declarative sentence type and rising
versus falling intonation. Gunlogson supports that claim through an
investigation of the use of declaratives as questions. On one hand,
Gunlogson demonstrates that rising and falling declaratives share an aspect
of conventional meaning attributable to their declarative form,
distinguishing them both from the corresponding polar interrogative (Is it
raining?) and constraining their use as questions. On the other hand, since
(1) and (2) constitute a minimal pair, differing only in intonation,
systematic differences in character and function between them--in
particular, the relative "naturalness" of (1) as a question compared to (2)
--must be located in the contrast between the fall and the rise.
To account for these two sets of differences, Gunlogson gives a
compositional account of rising and falling declaratives under which
declarative form expresses commitment to the propositional content of the
declarative. Rising versus falling intonation on declaratives is
responsible for attribution of the commitment to the Addressee versus the
Speaker, respectively. The result is an inherent contextual "bias"
associated with declaratives, which constitutes the crucial point of
difference with interrogatives. The compositional analysis is implemented
in the framework of context update semantics (Heim 1982 and others), using
an articulated version of the Common Ground (Stalnaker 1978) that
distinguishes the commitments of the individual discourse participants.
Restrictions on the use of declaratives as questions, as well as
differences between rising and falling declaratives as questions, are shown
to follow from this account. Gunlogson argues that neither rising nor
falling declaratives are inherently questioning--rather, the questioning
function of declaratives arises through the interaction of sentence type,
intonation, and context.