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The Syntax of Yes and No - Oxford Scholarship Online
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The Syntax of Yes and No

Anders Holmberg


This is a study of the syntax of yes–no questions and answers to them in the languages of the world. Even very short answers like ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are claimed to be complete sentences. A typical answer consists of a focused polarity feature which is either spelled out as a particle or supported by a moved verb, with the rest of the sentence subject to ellipsis under identity with the question. These are the two main types of yes–no answers found among the languages of the world. How to answer negative questions is subject to cross-linguistic (and also intralinguistic) variation, where ‘yes’ in o ... More

Keywords: yes–no questions, answers, polarity, ellipsis, negation, variation

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2015 Print ISBN-13: 9780198701859
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198701859.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Anders Holmberg, author
Professor of Theoretical Linguistics, Newcastle University