null WH questions

Alan R. King mccay at REDESTB.ES
Mon Oct 26 10:36:02 UTC 1998

Colloquial Spanish (at least the variety I am conversant with) makes fairly
liberal use of what David Gil proposes calling null WH questions.  For

A: Estoy cabreado.
B: ¿Por...?

A: "I am pissed off."
B: "Because of/On account of...?"

A: Ha habido una pelea.
B: ¿Entre...?
B: ¿Una pelea entre...?
B: ¿Ha habido una pelea entre...?

A: "There's been a fight."
B: "Between...?"
B: "A fight between...?"
B: "There's been a fight between...?"

It would be fairly easy to multiply the examples, and it would certainly be
desirable to find spontaneously occurring ones rather than these contrived
ones.  However, such utterances have much of the feel and perhaps some of
the function of echo questions, as I believe they're called ("I caught a
glumpfball." - "(You caught) a what?"; the intonation also points that way.
 Consequently the phenomenon, although I repeat it's fairly common in
discourse in a certain chatty, informal style, would probably be considered
marginal to the grammatical system.  Is this not also the case with the
Indonesian examples, I wonder?


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