On the optimal interpretation of yes and no in Dutch

J. Hoek, H. de Hoop

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Although the different ways in which yes and no can be used have received some attention in recent years, most literature is limited to English. This chapter examines the uses of ja ‘yes’ and nee ‘no’ in Dutch. By analyzing the ways in which ja and nee are used in the Corpus Gesproken Nederlands (Spoken Dutch Corpus), different categories can be established. The uses of ja and nee, though different, have certain common features. The interpretation of ja or nee by hearers is explained by means of an Optimality Theory analysis of word interpretation, along the lines of Hogeweg (2009). Through two possibly conflicting constraints, it is determined which possible interpretation of ja or nee is arrived at by the hearer. Finally, a bidirectional OT account of the Dutch positive–negative answering system is proposed and compared to the English answering system to demonstrate the generalizability of the model.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOptimality Theoretic Syntax, Semantics, and Pragmatics
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Uni- to Bidirectional Optimization
EditorsGéraldine Legendre, Michael T. Putnam, Henriëtte de Swart, Erin Zaroukian
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780191817021
ISBN (Print)9780198757115
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

Publication series

NameOxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics
PublisherOxford University Press


  • discourse markers
  • yes/no
  • negation
  • bidirectional OT
  • Spoken Dutch Corpus


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