[FUNKNET] grammaticalization of negatives/interrogatives

Gideon Goldenberg msgidgol at MSCC.HUJI.AC.IL
Thu Mar 10 06:21:19 UTC 2005

In addition to Matthew Anstey's right comment, one may be interested
to follow some further developments in a similar vein, but first we
may mention that the same word /ma:/ in Arabic stands both for "what",
and for "not" before a verb-form: /ma: fa&alta/ "What did you do?" =
"You did not do ...". The same has been noticed for Ancient Hebrew,
where besides the common use of /ma:/ for "what" there are remnants
of /ma:/ for "not", as in the parallel Biblical verses 2 Sam 20:1 and
1 Kings 12:16, where one has /ein lanu/ "we do not have" whereas the
parallel has /ma: lanu/ in the otherwise identical sentence. It
cannot be smoothly explained away by thinking of rhetoric questions.

But let us return to polar questions: in colloquial Hebrew, /eifo/
(lit. "where") is commonly used for denial (even of a negative
statement): /eifo hevin/ (lit. "'where' did he understand") means
"he did not understand, I don't believe that he understood", /eifo
lo hevin/ "it cannot be, I don't believe that he did not understand,
he just pretends so". Exactly identical is the use in Amharic of
/mache/ "when": /mache gäbbaw/ "he did not understand (it)" ["when
did he understand (it)?"]. In Amharic, by the way, yes-or-no questions
would commonly refer explicitly to the positive and the negative as
well: "Did you understand (or didn't you understand)?", "I don't know
whether you understand and whether you don't understand", "I am ssking
about your understanding and (about) your not understanding".
						  Gideon Goldenberg.

>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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