Trotzke, Andreas (2020):
"How Cool Is That! A New ‘Construction’ and Its Theoretical Challenges." The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 23.3: 327-365.
Journal Article

This paper deals with the controversial connection between sentence type and illocutionary force. I focus on wh-configurations of the form How cool is that! and demonstrate that this recent phenomenon presents some interesting challenges to approaches that are concerned with the illocutionary potential of sentence forms. In particular, the exclamation component of How cool is that! cannot be derived from features of exclamative syntax, but rather is a cumulative effect of exclamative intonation, the respective adjective, and the degree reading of how. However, the V-to-C-movement property results in a special pragmatics that proper exclamatives (i.e., without V-to-C movement: How cool that is!) lack. I claim that How cool is that! asks for affirmation or objection on the part of the addressee, and that this addressee-oriented component is signaled by a dedicated class of modal particles in the German version(s) of How cool is that! To analyze these addressee-oriented exclamations (A-EXCs), I adopt a syntactic approach to the connection between sentence types and their potential illocutionary uses and thus argue that this connection is by no means arbitrary and unrestricted. I show that both the special pragmatic function of How cool is that! and the corresponding distribution of modal particles in the German counterparts can be accounted for by referring to a compositional conception of sentence-type meanings, and I hence disagree with recent approaches that deal with How cool is that! and its counterparts in German as constructions (i.e., arbitrary form-function mappings) only.