Where's where

Paolo Ramat paoram at UNIPV.IT
Sat Mar 19 16:57:22 UTC 2005

Dear all,
Alexandre Archipov's mention of Russ. _gde_ 'where' used as emphatic negator
reminds me that Italian too has interrogative words for emphatic,
rhetorical, negative answers:
_Ha risposto alla tua lettera ?_ 'Did (s)he answer your letter?
_[Ma] quando mai?_ Lit: [But] when ever?, i.e. 'Certainly not, By no means!'
Note that the negative _mai_ 'never' could also be omitted and the sentence
would still represent a negative answer: _Ma quando?_ (same meaning: 'Not at

Less commonly we may find also _dove_ 'where' in negative emphatic answers
to yes/no questions:

_Hai trovato la sua lettera?_ 'Did you find her/his letter?'
_[Ma] dove mai?_ Lit.:[But] where ever?, i.e. 'Nowhere!'

Thus Italian seems to make no exception to the very common use of
interrogative words as emphatic, rhetorical negators.
As for the question raised by Matti, examples of the contrary evolution,
from negative marker to question marker (of the type mentioned by Wolfgang
Schulze ,10.iii.05: _Sie geht in die Stadt, nicht [wahr]?_), can be found in
Federica Da Milano, Le domande sì/no nelle lingue del Mediterraneo,
"Arch.Glottol. Ital." 84/2004:3-40 (e.g. Port. _o seu pai està aqui, nao è?_
, Ital. _suo padre è qui, no?_ The elimination of  the Adj. _wahr_,_vero_
or,  probably, the Subst. _verdade_    has produced the interrogative
meaning of the negative marker.


---- Original Message -----
From: "Richard Madsen" <norrv at HUM.AU.DK>
Sent: Saturday, March 19, 2005 4:05 PM
Subject: Re: Where's where

> Dear all,
> to the best of my knowledge neither Hungarian, nor Danish uses
> interrogatives as emphatic negators.
> Best
> Richard
> David Gil <gil at EVA.MPG.DE> den 19. marts 2005 kl. 13:33 +0000 skrev:
>>Dear all,
>>As we have seen, there has been a minor deluge of reports of languages
>>in which 'where' (or some other content interrogative word) is used to
>>express emphatic negation.  But as is typically the case, nobody has
>>thought of offering data of a negative character, to say that "Well in
>>this language there's nothing of the sort".  Given that the attestations
>>of the phenomena in the LINGTYP discussion so far would seem to span a
>>single isogloss extending from German through the Middle-East and South
>>Asia all the way to Indonesia, I am curious to know whether the absence
>>of any attestations from, say, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, the
>>Americas, and various other regions is reflective of a real absence, or,
>>as is often the case, an absence of attention on our part as linguists.
>>Hence this call: please send me examples of languages in which (you are
>>sure that) the phenomenon of 'where' or some other content interrogative
>>word being used to express emphatic negation is NOT present.  One such
>>language is English.  Please let me know of others.  Of course, I would
>>still be interested in examples of other languages which have the
>>If I get enough responses, I will post a summary (perhaps even a map).
>>David Gil
>>[currently in Indonesia]
>>Department of Linguistics
>>Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
>>Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
>>Telephone: 49-341-3550321
>>Fax: 49-341-3550119
>>Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
>>Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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