answers and tags

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Thu Aug 24 05:53:34 UTC 2006

Dear Edith,
Theo Vennemann once (2002) gave a lecture in Munich on the problem you 
have mentioned. He discussed the typology of yes/no-answers especially 
with respect to the distribution of patterns in Europa hypothesizing 
that a Celtic substrat has motivated e.g. the English type of echo 
answers that again would have caused the the echoing tag type. To better 
account for the details from a typological perspective, it would make 
sense to 'classify' the different tag types and see a) whether their 
internal structure is matched in echo answers and b) whether a certain 
type of tags necesserily calls for a specific answer type. Personally, I 
would start from a template similar to the following (surely not 

             Question      Answer
 Tag     Without       1. yes/no
                                  2. echo
                                  2.1 Based on dummy verbs (light 
verbs), eg. 'do, have' etc.
                                  2.2 Based on the echoing of the full verb
Tag        Present
              1. yes/no
              2. only yes
              3. only not
              4. internal echo
              4.1 Based on dummy verbs (light verbs) e.g. 'do, have' etc.
              4.2 Based on the echoing of the full verb

The question internal tags should further be classified according to the 
question wether it is negate a positive assumption / asserts a negative 
assumption (> contradiction), or whether it matches the polarity. In 
addition, it might be crucial to observe which constituents are copied 
into a tag-like answer (as well into the tag itself). In English, we 
clearly see an accusative startegy, copying S and A into the answer 
(plus dummy verb), but 'fading out' O (nad IO etc.). In ergative 
strategies, the oppostite may occasionally be true.

Best wishes,

Edith Moravcsik schrieb:

> Last April, there was an extended discussion on LINGTYP about the 
> kinds of answers to yes-no questions that different languages use.
> It would be interesting to see how the types of answers relate to the 
> types of tags in tag questions. There appears to be some correlation. 
> Thus, in English, a simple "yes" or "no" is not a "full answer" to a 
> yes-no question, nor do they serve as tags - at least not in the 
> standard varieties. Ex:
> Have you eaten dinner?
> No, I haven't.
> ?No.
> You have eaten dinner, haven't you?
> ?You have eaten dinner, no?
> In Hungarian on the other hand, simple 'yes' or 'no' serves as an 
> answer; 'no' can also be a tag but 'yes' cannot.
> Edith

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze
Institut fuer Allgemeine und Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen
Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
D-80539 Muenchen
Tel.: ++49-(0)89-2180-2486 (Sekr.)
Tel.: ++49-(0)89-2180-5343 (Office)
Fax : ++49-(0)89-2180-5345
E-mail: W.Schulze at

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