Might and Must in Questions
Jakob Piribauer & Joannes Campell
(University of Amsterdam)
Saturday (April 22nd), 14:15-15:15 (Poster presentation round)
Lipsius Hall

One focus of recent work in formal semantics lies on notions of meaning that comprise more than the informative content of a sentence. Groenendijk and Roelofsen (2009: “Inquisitive semantics and pragmatics"), and Ciardelli (2009: “Inquisitive semantics and intermediate logics”) present a framework integrating the inquisitive and informative content of sentences. Malte Willer (Willer 2013: “Dynamics of Epistemic Modality”; Willer 2016: “Lessons from Sobel Sequences”) presents a dynamic account of might and must based on the introduction of ‘live possibilities’ as possibilities that are taken seriously by the agent and ‘live necessities’ – possibilities which the agent thinks should, or must be the case. Roelofsen (2016: “First sketch of inquisitive live possibility semantics”) integrates live possibilities into the inquisitive framework to give, among others, a treatment of might in questions. 

Based on these contributions, we propose a semantics that is inspired by Willer’s treatment of epistemic modalities using live possibilities and live necessities and implement this in an inquisitive fashion. This semantics captures the informative and the inquisitive content of sentences, as well as the attentive content conveyed by the modals might and must. It contributes to previous endeavours by providing an account of must in questions in addition to a treatment of might in questions. Further, the semantics correctly predicts free choice effects and detects epistemic contradictions.