grammaticalization of negatives/interrogatives

Steve Hewitt s.hewitt at UNESCO.ORG
Thu Mar 10 08:21:44 UTC 2005

Further to Matthew Anstey and Gideon Goldberg, there is an "incredulous"
use of the word "pelec'h?" (where?) in Breton, at least in the NE dialect
of Treger. This can only be an independent semantic extension of the word
for "where?", as there is no analogue that I know of either in French or in
the other Celtic languages.

Two typical examples, the first an incredulous response to an affirmation,
the second an incredulous rhetorical question:

[Te oar a-walc'h n'emañ ked Yann o vond da brenañ an ti-se!
You know enough NEG be.SIT not Yann PROG go to buy the house-that
"You know full well Yann isn't going to buy that house!"]

Nann, pelec'h!?
No, "where"
"No, how [on earth] could he!?"

Pelec'h e preno Yann an ti-se!?
Where AFF Yann the house-that
"How [on earth] could Yann buy that house!?"

However, "pelec'h?" does not give rise to a straightforward negative of any
sort, and thus we seem to be moving away from the original question by
Matti Miestamo.

Steve Hewitt

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