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Academic Paper


Title: Wh-Optatives in Danish: Compositional and Noncompositional Aspects
Author: Bjarne Ørsnes
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.id.cbs.dk/index_en.htm
Institution: Copenhagen Business School
Linguistic Field: Syntax
Subject Language: Danish
English
German
Abstract: Danish has an optative taking the form of a wh-clause with embedded word order: Hvem der var rig! lit. ‘Who there were rich!’ with the intended meaning Wish I were rich! Such wh-clauses cannot be used as optatives in German or English (or only marginally so). On the basis of a detailed analysis of the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of this little-studied phenomenon, this article seeks to explain why a wh-clause with “embedded” word order can be used as an optative. I argue that wh-optatives are compositional in many but not all respects. It is a special construction whose interpretation is determined to a large extent by its grammatical properties but which also has completely idiosyncratic properties. In German and English, such wh-clauses are only potential optatives: They are not used as optatives, but nothing would preclude it.

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This article appears IN Journal of Germanic Linguistics Vol. 25, Issue 2.

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