In most cases, a wh-question calls for an answer that names an entity in the set denoted by the extension of the wh-complement. However, evidence from questions with necessity modals and questions with collective predicates argues that sometimes a wh-question must be interpreted with a higher-order reading, in which this question calls for an answer that names a generalized quantifier.
This talk investigates the distribution and the compositional derivation of these higher-order readings. I observe that questions in which the wh-complement is singular-marked or numeral-modified can be answered by elided disjunctions but not by conjunctions. I further present two ways to account for this disjunction--conjunction asymmetry. In the uniform account, these questions admit disjunctions because disjunctions (but not conjunctions) may satisfy the atomicity requirement of singular-marking and the cardinality requirement of numeral-modification. In the reconstruction account, the wh-complement is syntactically reconstructed, which gives rise to local uniqueness and yields a contradiction for conjunctive answers.
Xiang, Yimei. 2020. Higher-order readings of wh-questions. Forthcoming in Natural Language Semantics. https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/004859