[Lingtyp] undifferentiated interrogative words

Françoise Rose francoise.rose at univ-lyon2.fr
Tue Aug 18 07:58:46 UTC 2020

Dear Peter,

Mojeño Trinitario (Arawak, Lowland Bolivia) partly illustrates the type of languages you are looking for, since 'where', 'how' and 'how many' are all expressed with the same interrogative word oo(yo) (a classifier is needed for the 'how many' interpretation, as classifiers are needed on numerals and quantifiers in general).

Other interrogative strategies are the following:
'What' and 'who' questions use indeterminate pronouns, which vary for gender and number.
kaeera is a separate interrogative marker for 'when'
'why' is usually expressed as "what happened that...", with the non-human indeterminate pronoun.

I will be happy to send you data if needed.

Françoise ROSE
Directrice de Recherches 2ème classe, CNRS
Laboratoire Dynamique Du Langage (CNRS/Université Lyon2)
16 avenue Berthelot
69007 Lyon
(33)4 72 72 64 63

-----Message d'origine-----
De : Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> De la part de Peter Arkadiev
Envoyé : mardi 11 août 2020 20:47
À : Linguistic Typology <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Objet : [Lingtyp] undifferentiated interrogative words

Dear typologists,

as is well-known, there are many languages lacking a distinction between "animate" and "inanimate" interrogative words (see the doctoral dissertation by Dmitry Idiatov), e.g. Lithuanian "kas" means both 'who' and 'what'. I am wondering if there are any languages where interrogative words don't distinguish between such ontological categories as "place", "time" and "manner", e.g. have a single interrogative word which, depending on the context, can mean "when", "where", "how" and the like. 

Many thanks in advance and best regards,


Idiatov, Dmitry. 2007. A Typology of Non-Selective Interrogative Pronominals. PhD Dissertation, Universiteit Antwerpen.

Peter Arkadiev, PhD Hab.
Institute of Slavic Studies
Russian Academy of Sciences
Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119334 Moscow
peterarkadiev at yandex.ru

Lingtyp mailing list
Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list