re interrogative verbs + interrogative relators + indefiniteordinals
gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Fri Mar 23 12:47:19 UTC 2001
In response to Claude Hagege's query:
> Speaking of interrogative words, I have a question : does anyone
> know languages having interrogative relators? If it were a
> preposition, for instance, it would be, representing the interrogative
> relator as wh-ip (ip = interrogative preposition), something like
> he worked wh-ip John?,
> where wh-ip means "for, or with, or because of, etc."
Well, in Riau Indonesian, where you can sort of do more things than in
most other languges, you can form the question:
(1) Dia kerja ngapain John?
he work AG-what-APPL John
And among the appropriate answers would be
(2) (a) bantu
help (similar to "for")
accompany (similar to "with")
PAT-order (similar to "because of")
But you can't actually answer (1) with:
(3) (a) *untuk
However, this seems to me to be less a fact about the WH word "ngapain"
in (1), and more a fact about the forms in (3). Specifically, "ngapain"
can be answered with any word or expression which belongs to a major
syntactic category (of which I've argued elsewhere that there's exactly
one); but not with a grammatical item, such as a preposition or
conjunction, which belong to minor syntactic categories.
Generalizing cross-linguistically, I suspect the following
generalization will turn out to be true:
(4) Conjecture: question words can "ask about" items belonging to major
(or open) syntactic categories, but not minor (or closed) ones.
If true, this makes the prediction that nobody will come up with the
example that Claude is looking for, namely an interrogative relator.
Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Inselstrasse 22, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
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