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Academic Paper

Title: Wh-Optatives in Danish: Compositional and Noncompositional Aspects
Author: Bjarne Ørsnes
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Copenhagen Business School
Linguistic Field: Syntax
Subject Language: Danish
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.


This article appears IN Journal of Germanic Linguistics Vol. 25, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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