Date of Award

August 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Nicholas Fleisher

Committee Members

Peter van Elswyk, Sandra Pucci, Anne Pycha


pragmatics, rhetorical questions


There has been much work on the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of questions.While the argument herein is that rhetorical questions do not function like typical information-seeking questions, it remains the case that they are, if nothing else, syntactically interrogative. This fact is explored by examining different types of rhetorical questions through various lenses, including question semantics, Gricean pragmatics, and Speech Act Theory. A pragmatic framework is proposed to explain the effects that rhetorical questions have on the conversational scoreboard. Their illocutionary force is also considered, as it, along with contextual factors, can affect how rhetorical questions are interpreted. This paper offers a new definition of RHETORICAL QUESTIONS as well as providing an analysis of their pragmatic effects.

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Linguistics Commons