grammaticalization of negatives/interrogatives

Steve Hewitt s.hewitt at UNESCO.ORG
Tue Mar 15 08:12:55 UTC 2005

Posting for Annie Montaut [montaut at], who is having trouble posting
from her computer:

Dear all,
Hindi/Urdu as well as Nepali uses a lot interrogative words (mainly
"kahaaN  where" , to a lesser degreed "when" kab, but never kidhar
"where to") as markers of strong denial
  tumhaaraa kahaaN soc rahaa thaa     yaar, Pappu kaa  soc rahaa tha
  your         where     think progr past  dear, Pappu of     think
progr past
  it's not you I have been thinking of at all, it's Pappu
without contrastive focus:
  mujhe     pataa          kahaaN   lagaa?!
  I-dat     knowledge   where     came
  how could I have ever known? (as if I had any idea)
sometimes the animate interrogative pronoun is also used in a similar
way (kaun "who")
  abhii         kaun     raat     biit     gaii hai?!         baiTho
  just-now   who     night     pass  go prest-pft    sit down
  night is in no way finished (don't tell me it's late), sit down
(stay some more)

A negative particle na (used to negate non finite verbs and non
indicative moods) is also used as a marker for tag questions (with a
stronger force in asking for confirmation than the postponing of the
kyaa regular interrogative word, usually in the first position when
simply asking for information)
  tumhaaraa dost     aaegaa         na
  your         friend     will-come   neg
  your friend will come, won't he/right?
  tum aaoge         kyâ?
  you will-come     Q
  you will come? (may-be)

As for the Tamil -a (as mentionned by Edith Moravcsik), the basic
interrogative suffix, it is quite interesting since apart from the
negative use, it also marks emphasis. I am enquiring more on that...

Annie Montaut [montaut at]

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