Interrogative Indefinites in Siouan

Koontz John E John.Koontz at
Sat Oct 21 04:30:42 UTC 2000

On Thu, 19 Oct 2000, Konstantin Hmelnitski wrote:
> To eliminate the ambiguity of interrogative vs. indefinite in T-words I
> would add to the discussion the following:
> 1. The choice of interrogative enclitics.

It certainly makes a difference if there is an interrogaive at all in
Omaha-Ponca, viz.:

... eda'daN ede'ha=m=azhi=tta=the ha.
... what    I shall not say anything DECLm
JOD 1891:101.3

I shall not say anything.

Na!  Eda'daN ede'he=tta?
why! what    I shall say something
JOD 1890:596.9

Why!  What should I say?

Here the -a ending of =tte FUTRE/IRREALIS is, in effect, the
interrogative. I suppose the translation 'Should I say something?' might
also work.  This is a case where someone is accused of saying something
(muttering it), and denies it.

The verb here is e=d=e, presumably e=d(a)=e, 'to say something' used in
the sense of 'what did one say/did one say something' in questions.
The first e= is the proclitic demonstative of 'to day', the d is da 'what'
as in edadaN 'what', and the last e is the root of 'to say'.  Or perhaps
ed- is e-da form eda(daN) 'what'.  As I've mentioned, the -daN is a marker
of contingency.

Of course, Bruce's real question is how to make the distinction between
what and something in questions.  Maybe the issue is really one of
focus.  The what questions focus on the unknown thing, whereas the
something questions presume the something's unstated identity and focus on
the rest of the matter.  Presumably the first is the unmarked case, though
I'm not sure I should state this so surely.

It is worth noting that in the whole of Dorsey's texts the word something
only occurs (in the interlinear translations) in connection with
translating ede and various wa-prefixed forms.


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