What about how

Yury Lander yulander at YANDEX.RU
Mon Mar 21 06:11:41 UTC 2005

Dear all,

In relation to HOW:

The question is the interaction between interrogatives and modality. Returning to Russian, while WHAT, WHERE, WHO and similar stuff in their "negative" functions (more likely negating only that the situation described is indeed the situation of the type described) allow both absence and presence of modal verbs like MOCH' (can), HOW - at least at first glance - require some operator of this sort:

Kak ty      tuda  xodil?
how you(sg) there went(Imperf)

Kak ty      tuda  mog   xodit'?
how you(sg) there could to.go(Imperf)

While (1) is a normal question about the manner or the path, (2) naturally is a denial of someone's claim that the Addressee went there. (A similar effect is found when there is no modal in the clause, but the verb is in future - How will you go there? - but here the borderline between negation and question seems to be even more obscure.)

Now, English SHOULD definitely refers to the same phenomenon. But are there languages where WHO, WHERE, WHAT etc. and HOW can be used as "quasi-negators" in the SAME WAY (that is, without TMA restrictions or with the same TMA restrictions)?

Best wishes,

Yury A. Lander
Dept. of Languages, Institute of Oriental Studies
Rozhdestvenka, 12
Moscow 107031 Russia

Email: yulander at yandex.ru
URL: yulander.narod.ru

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