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My question is about the differences when using という in a question compared to without.

Take for example the 4 questions below

何があったというのだ?
何があったのだ?
何かが始まるというの?
何かが始まるの?

The two questions with という were said by characters to themselves and were said because they thought that something is/is about to happen due to their birthmarks shining. Does the usage of という have any relevance to the way the information has been obtained before they ask the question or is it purely for emphasis or some other usage?

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「~~というのだ」、「~~というの」、「~~というのか」, etc. added at the end of a question generally functions to emphasize the question itself.

By adding one of those phrases, you are expressing the fact that you really want to know the answer because whatever happened that caused you to ask the question perplexes, surprises or shocks you.

Does the usage of という have any relevance to the way the information has been obtained before they ask the question or is it purely for emphasis or some other usage?

I find this to be a very insightful question. In real life, the way the information has been obtained would generally have very little to do with the use of 「という」. It is the content of the event/situation that matters such as how puzzling it is.

In this particular case, however, it is fiction where those questions are uttered. "Birthmarks shining" is a highly peculiar event: therefore, one could say that the way the information has been obtained would have much to do with the use of 「という」 here.

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