Assume that questions can be conjoined with other questions, e.g.:

  1. Who is Shawn Balt? What is prawn salt?
  2. Who is Shawn Balt and what is prawn salt?

Assume that wh-terms are (plurally) agglomerative when either conjunct shares the same wh-type:

  1. Why is Shawn Balt and why is prawn salt? Where is Shangri-La and where are Tlön's halls?
  2. Why is Shawn Balt and prawn salt? (Note: take "is" for "does ____ exist," so that we could go from, "Why does Shawn exist and why does that salt exist?" to, "Why do Shawn and that salt exist?") Where are Shangri-La and Tlön's halls?

However, is there something "off-key" about conjoining an assertion and a question? I don't know, but my "radar" is blipping on both sides:

  1. I will yawn/halt and who is Juan Walt?
  2. Also disjunction sounds even more "out of tune" here: I am a prawn malt or why are these fronds small?

I don't quite understand why (5) and (6) sound "wrong" to me; they don't seem inferential, and so maybe they seem nonlogical somehow, but I'm not clearly seeing it. Actually, I can also see that sometimes people say things like (5) or (6), or I seem to remember there being everyday turns of phrase that go like that (c.f., "Go to the store or we'll run out of prawn salt," as an example of disjoining an imperative and an assertion).

If conjunction as used to bridge questions and assertions has no real inferential value and seems to generate "syntactically self-irrelevant"(?) sentences, but otherwise has no contralogical meaning, is it still pure logical conjunction?

  • 1
    I don't see any problem with conjunctions. A together with B entails and is entailed by A ∧ B. This holds whether A, B are propositions or questions. Whether the conjunction has any inferential value is a pragmatic issue in both cases. A plausible example might be: "This location is restricted and why are you here?". Though even then, it sounds more natural to express it as two sentences, or to swap the 'and' for 'so'.
    – Bumble
    Jul 16 at 6:28
  • 1
    The more interesting case is the combination of questions and conditionals. We can ask conditional questions, but the conditionals do not behave like the material conditional. Suppose someone asks you: "If you are married, do you have more than ten children?" If in fact you are not married, and you choose to interpret the conditional as material, then a truthful answer would be 'yes'. This seems rather misleading to say the least: it would be natural to say 'not applicable'.
    – Bumble
    Jul 16 at 6:28
  • @Bumble conditional questions with false antecedents are loaded questions, maybe? Like, "Have you stopped eating giraffes?" can have, "No," as a formally correct, but pragmatically wonky, answer (in case you've never started eating giraffes in the first place). But also, perhaps this could go to show that the conditional connective can't work like classical says via truth tables, because we would be able to turn conditional questions into elaborate conjunctive/disjunctive questions, with even more loss of pragmatic felicity? Jul 16 at 12:56
  • Indeed, Grice attempted a resolution of some of the paradoxes of the material conditional along those lines, though it doesn't seem all that plausible to me. If you ask me the disjunctive question, "Is it true that you are not married or have more than 10 children?" I would feel quite justified in returning the answer 'yes'.
    – Bumble
    Jul 16 at 13:17
  • We are ... ahem, I mean I am ... built for simpler stuff. If you'd like me to do my bit towards advancing this thread, I'd say Google Erotetics. Jul 16 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


Pardon what seems like a mouthful, but linguistic conjunction implies ontic correlation. In other words, whenever we use 'and', 'or', 'but', etc, we are implicitly asserting that the two connected utterances have a common (correlative) sense or root. When we connect two questions we are a bit lenient because questions are open-ended; our minds allow for a lot of interpretive ground bringing the questions into relation. But our minds are less forgiving with declarative statements, and expect the following utterance to conform to the declarative statement.

I mean, it's easy enough to construct statement/question conjunctions that sound fine, e.g.:

  • I am lazy and why do you care?
  • That is beautiful and how can I get it?
  • You are wrong and why are we doing this?

It even works with statement/statment conjunctions, i.e.

  • "You are silly and I am over it" works fine literally, and...
  • "You are Santa and I am Claus" works as a pun or metaphor, but...
  • "You are pretty and I like asparagus" doesn't really track.

The human mind expects linguistically connected things to be connected in reality, and gets annoyed when that connection doesn't seem to exist. With questions it assumes the connection might be in the answers (like a riddle), so it gives a bit of grace. But linguistically connecting pure disconnects makes the mind grumpy.

  • I would say rather that the correlation is pragmatic, not ontic. Whether it is appropriate for two propositions or questions to be stated together in a conjunction depends entirely on the context. Almost any pair of sentences could be relevant to one another in some context or other.
    – Bumble
    Jul 16 at 23:57
  • @Bumble: Well... Being a fan of Wittgenstein, I could start a long and tedious argument over whether there's much difference b between 'pragmatic' and 'ontic' in this context — use-value! — but I do see your point. Let me think a bit and I'll revise. Jul 17 at 0:21

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