This paper discusses the two uses of the polar particles yes and no as an answer and a reaction to a preceding complex question that contains an embedded clause (e.g., Do you think that Bill came to the party?). We show that the answer particles in this context elicit ambiguity between the two uses, and that a pause plays a role in distinguishing them. When a particle is used as a polar answer to the question itself, there is a pause between the particle and the subsequent sentence, signifying that the derivation involves clausal ellipsis (cf. Kramer and Rawlings 2011, Holmberg 2016). When a particle is used as a rejoinder, it serves as a reaction to the content of the embedded clause in the question and a pause is absent. We also show that the subsequent sentence restricts the distribution of the particles by taking part in semantic coherency. Finally, we explore the possibility that their distributions could further be restricted by a certain processing mechanism.
2. Ellipsis and the Role of Subsequent Sentences
3. Reactions to the Negative Embedded Clause