[Lingtyp] interrogative verbal paradigms

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Mon Oct 16 10:26:16 EDT 2017


I'd like to apologize to Peter Arkadiev, who was unhappy with the 
following formulation in my earlier post:

"These elements may have been described as part of "verbal morphology", 
but this is more a claim about the orthography than about any clear 
property of the language."

I did not mean that he didn't have excellent reasons to describe these 
elements as "verbal morphology" in Abkhaz (but I recognize that my 
sentence may have been understood in this way).

What I meant was that in a typological context, we need more 
fine-grained properties to classify languages, because the macro-concept 
"morphology" has been applied in rather different ways in different 
languages. (For some relevant recent discussion, see the paper by Bickel 
& Zúñiga in the polysynthesis handbook: 
http://www.comparativelinguistics.uzh.ch/en/bickel/publications/in-press.html)

Best,
Martin


> This exchange again shows the need to define one's comparative 
> concepts carefully – and it illustrates the common situation that we 
> cannot easily transfer notions from familiar languages to all other 
> languages.
>
> One way to define "interrogative pronoun" might be as "a simple form 
> that occurs in a content question and that occupies the position of 
> the open parameter at issue".
>
> This definition would comprise forms such as Italian "cosa" (which 
> means 'what?' or 'thing'), as well as French "que" (which is a bound 
> form, in that it cannot occur by itself). Perhaps these are not 
> "genuine" interrogative pronouns, in the sense that they are free 
> forms (like Latin "quid?"), or in the sense that they only occur in an 
> interrogative context (again like Latin "quid?"). But since even the 
> forms of well-known languages may occur in non-interrogative contexts 
> (e.g. most English wh-pronouns, used in relative clauses), it does not 
> seem reasonable to define "interrogative pronoun" in a narrow sense.
>
> I do share the feeling that Abkhaz and Abaza are unusual in some way, 
> but I'm not sure how best to express this with clear comparative 
> concepts. These elements may have been described as part of "verbal 
> morphology", but this is more a claim about the orthography than about 
> any clear property of the language.
>
> Martin
>
> On 15.10.17 10:49, Peter Arkadiev wrote:
>> Dear Dmitry,
>>
>> many thanks, this is very helpful! I will have a close look at your 
>> work.
>> When I said that Abaza and Abkhaz lack genuine interrogative words I 
>> meant interrogative word based on interrogative roots. Perhaps I am 
>> naive, since I have never worked closely on interrogative 
>> constructions before, but in all languages I know interrogative 
>> words, even if morphologically complex, are based on roots with 
>> interrogative meaning. In Abaza and Abkhaz, in contrast to the other 
>> NW Caucasian languages, there don't seem to be any such roots. In 
>> order to form a content question you need to embed whatever lexical 
>> root into an appropriate interrogative morphological pattern. True, 
>> if you consult a dictionary or a traditional grammar, you will find 
>> words for "who" and "what", but on closer inspection they turn out to 
>> be regular interrogative forms based on semantically general roots 
>> such as "possession". The only minor exception to this pattern in one 
>> of the words for "who" which has undergone some phonological erosion, 
>> but it still carries its regular origin on its sleeves in quite a 
>> transparent way.
>>
>> Many thanks again and best regards,
>>
>> Peter
>>
>> -- 
>> Peter Arkadiev, PhD
>> Institute of Slavic Studies
>> Russian Academy of Sciences
>> Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119991 Moscow
>> peterarkadiev at yandex.ru
>> http://inslav.ru/people/arkadev-petr-mihaylovich-peter-arkadiev
>>
>>
>> 15.10.2017, 01:10, "Idiatov Dmitry" <honohiiri at yandex.ru>:
>>> Dear Peter,
>>>
>>> When you say “there are no genuine interrogative pronouns in these 
>>> languages; those elements that are described as such are in fact 
>>> just interrogative verbal forms of the type just described”, you 
>>> necessarily imply that interrogative pronominals must be nouns, and 
>>> moreover, words without any morphological structure. That’s a matter 
>>> of definition and everybody is free to use their definitions, but I 
>>> think this one makes languages look unnecessarily more different 
>>> than they really are and complicates things when you want to compare 
>>> across languages.
>>>
>>> I suggest your question should better be formulated as follows:
>>>
>>> 1. Are there languages where interrogative pronominals are based on 
>>> a bound interrogative root?
>>>
>>> 2. Are there languages where such interrogative pronominals based on 
>>> a bound interrogative root obligatory function as predicates or 
>>> clauses? (like they are in Abaza and Abkhaz)
>>>
>>> The answer to question #1 is yes. Such languages are relatively 
>>> numerous. The two common cases are (i) when the interrogative root 
>>> must be additionally marked for gender, number or any other nominal 
>>> category to be able to function as a pronominal and (ii) when 
>>> interrogative pronominals are expressed with conventionalized noun 
>>> phrases not based on nominal interrogative pronominals (such as 
>>> ‘which person?’ for ‘who?’). I guess in most languages with such 
>>> complex interrogative pronominals, the latter can at least function 
>>> as nominal predicates. Abaza and Abkhaz belong to another type of 
>>> languages with interrogative pronominals based on bound roots. In 
>>> this type, such interrogative pronominals with a complex internal 
>>> structure obligatory function as predicates or clauses. In other 
>>> words, in such languages, interrogative pronominals are clausal 
>>> constructions.
>>>
>>> My impression is that this type is not very common. However, I can 
>>> only provide examples (some synchronic and some reconstructed cases) 
>>> where the fact that interrogative pronominals are clausal 
>>> constructions leads to the lack of differentiation between ‘who?’ 
>>> and ‘what?’ interrogative meanings. You can find them in my PhD 
>>> (downloadable at http://idiatov.mardi.myds.me/PhD.html): a number of 
>>> Mayan languages (pp. 492-509), some Arawakan languages (pp. 
>>> 523-529), possibly also some Tacanan (pp. 543-545) languages and 
>>> Urarina (pp. 536-537). I actually also discuss the Abaza and Abkhaz 
>>> pattern (pp. 271-277).
>>>
>>> Also see pp. 3-5 for some definitional issues as to what is best 
>>> considered as an interrogative pronominal.
>>>
>>> Hope this helps!
>>>
>>> -- 
>>> Dmitry Idiatov
>>> ALT treasurer & membership manager
>>>
>>> LLACAN (CNRS - Inalco)
>>> http://idiatov.mardi.myds.me/
>>>
>>> 14.10.2017, 22:59, "Peter Arkadiev" <peterarkadiev at yandex.ru>:
>>>>   Dear typologists,
>>>>
>>>>   in Abkhaz and Abaza, two closely related Northwest Caucasian 
>>>> languages, content questions (a.k.a. wh-questions) can be encoded 
>>>> by verbal morphology alone, without any separate interrogative 
>>>> words (see Hewitt 1979a: 10-23 for a description for Abkhaz). This 
>>>> is achieved by adding an appropriate interrogative suffix or prefix 
>>>> to an appropriate relative verbal form (on relativization in 
>>>> Abkhaz, see Hewitt 1979b; on Abaza, see O'Herin 2002, chapter 8). 
>>>> Cf. the following three characteristic examples from Abaza (my own 
>>>> fieldwork data):
>>>>
>>>>   (1) j-ʕa-ḳa-ŝá-ja? rel.abs-dir-loc-fall-what 'What fell?'
>>>>
>>>>   (2) w-ʕa-z-rə-há-da? 2sg.m.abs-dir-rel.erg-caus-fear-who 'Who 
>>>> frightened you?'
>>>>
>>>>   (3) w-ʔa-bá-nχa-wa? 2sg.m.abs-rel.loc-qadv-work-ipfv 'Where do 
>>>> you work?'
>>>>
>>>>   -ja and -da are interrogative suffixes with non-human resp. human 
>>>> reference (conspicuously featuring the j- and d- prefixes, which 
>>>> index non-human resp. human 3rd person singular absolutive 
>>>> arguments), while -ba- is an interrogative prefix for adverbial 
>>>> questions. Relativization is expressed by means of prefixes that 
>>>> indicate the role of the relativized or questioned element. This 
>>>> looks pretty much similar to a familiar (pseudo-)cleft strategy of 
>>>> forming content questions (e.g. Who is it who frightened you?). 
>>>> However, there are no genuine interrogative pronouns in these 
>>>> languages; those elements that are described as such are in fact 
>>>> just interrogative verbal forms of the type just described. The 
>>>> interrogative elements in Abaza and Abkhaz do not look cognate with 
>>>> the interrogative words attested in the other languages of the family.
>>>>   I am wondering whether anything of this kind is attested in any 
>>>> other languages. I have looked at several reference works on 
>>>> questions (e.g. Siemund's article in HSK on typology and 
>>>> universals) and did not find there any mention of the Abkhaz 
>>>> pattern, neither is it mentioned in WALS. I would be grateful for 
>>>> any suggestions.
>>>>
>>>>   Thanks in advance and best regards,
>>>>
>>>>   Peter
>>>>
>>>>   --
>>>>   Peter Arkadiev, PhD
>>>>   Institute of Slavic Studies
>>>>   Russian Academy of Sciences
>>>>   Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119991 Moscow
>>>>   peterarkadiev at yandex.ru
>>>> http://inslav.ru/people/arkadev-petr-mihaylovich-peter-arkadiev
>>>>   _______________________________________________
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-- 
Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10	
D-07745 Jena
&
Leipzig University
IPF 141199
Nikolaistrasse 6-10
D-04109 Leipzig







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