[FUNKNET] grammaticalization of negatives/interrogatives

Anstey, Matthew MAnstey at CSU.EDU.AU
Thu Mar 10 01:43:12 UTC 2005

Hi Matti,

Many semitic languages show a probable development from an interrogative particle of place "where is ...?" to an negative existential "there is not ...". Similar to English, "Where's Pete?" that implies "Pete is not here".

Unfortunately, the actual grammaticalisation paths are hard to determine. But the examples speak for themselves:

Akkadian: ayyaanum "where?" ; yaanu "there is not"
Ugaritic: ?iy "where?" ; ?in "there is not"
Arabic: ?ayna "where?" ; ?in "not" 
Biblical Hebrew: ?eey, ?ayyeeh, ?áyin, ?aan "where?" ; ?eeyn "there is not", ?iiy "not"
Moabite:  ?n "there is not"
Punic: ynny "there is not"
El-Amarna Canaanite: ayakam, ayami "where?"
Aramaic: ?ayin "where? ; ?ayin "there is not"
Phoenician: ?y "there is not"

There are many other similar ?y(n) words, meaning either "where?" and/or "there is not".

Sorry I can't be more specific. A specialist in comparative Semitics would be able to shed much more light on this!


Mr Matthew Anstey
Charles Sturt University, School of Theology, Sessional Lecturer

Vrije Universiteit, PhD candidate
St Mark's National Theological Centre
15 Blackall St
Barton ACT 2600

Ph:  +61 (0)2 6273 1572
Fax: +61 (0)2 6273 4067
Email: manstey at csu.edu.au


> -----Original Message-----
> From: funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu 
> [mailto:funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu] On Behalf Of Matti Miestamo
> Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 12:34 AM
> To: funknet; lingtyp
> Subject: [FUNKNET] grammaticalization of negatives/interrogatives
> Dear List Members,
> A possible source for polar interrogative markers is the use 
> of negative markers as tag questions, and I'd be interested 
> to hear about any attested cases of such developments; Heine 
> & Kuteva briefly mention this possibility in their World 
> Lexicon of Grammaticalization but do not discuss any attested 
> cases (they do discuss the role of negation in the A-not-A 
> interrogative construction, but this is not what I'm after).
> I'd also be interested in any other cases of 
> grammaticalization where a negative marker has developed into 
> a question marker or vice versa.
> Thanks and best wishes,
> Matti
> -- 
> Matti Miestamo
> <http://www.ling.helsinki.fi/~matmies/>

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