grammaticalization of negatives/interrogatives

Scott DeLancey delancey at DARKWING.UOREGON.EDU
Thu Mar 10 22:07:45 UTC 2005

This pattern is widespread not only in Sinitic, as has been mentioned,
but also throughout Tibeto-Burman, as well as in Tai.  In T-B, the
original negative is ma-, prefixed to the verb.  Thus the alternative
question form is VERB ma-VERB or VERB OR ma-VERB, and bits and pieces
of the stuff between the verbs ends up as the yes-no interrogative
particle.  Often a final particle, like the Classical Tibetan
interrogative 'am, but sometimes preverbal (i.e. the first VERB
disappears, and the final VERB remains) as in Shanghai or Amdo.
A very interesting example is Dulung, where the negative prefix is
m at - (@=schwa), and the interrogative is a prefixed /má-/, as in má-kái
'Does he eat?' (Sun Hongkai, Dulung-yu jianji, 1982, p. 105).

Scott DeLancey
Department of Linguistics
1290 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1290, USA

delancey at

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