The aim of this paper is to capture the similarities and differences between assertions and polar questions so as to be able to account for the systematic partial overlap that exists in reactions to these speech acts in English and beyond. We first discuss the discourse components we assume and then define default assertions and default polar questions in a way that allows us to characterize two types of responses to these speech acts, confirming and reversing reactions. The common characteristics of assertions and polar questions are responsible for the fact that both allow these reactions; the differences between the two speech acts explain the different contextual effects confirming and reversing moves have depending on whether they react to an assertion or a polar question. We then examine the distribution of a set of ‘polarity’ particles in Romanian in terms of the notions defined in the rest of the paper and end with a series of predictions concerning polarity particles across languages.

You do not currently have access to this article.