LINGUIST List 11.126

Sat Jan 22 2000

Sum: Verbal Interrogatives

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Lameen Souag, Sum: Verbal interrogatives (11.119)

Message 1: Sum: Verbal interrogatives (11.119)

Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000 18:42:58 GMT
From: Lameen Souag <>
Subject: Sum: Verbal interrogatives (11.119)

Thanks a lot to everyone who sent examples. Verbal interrogatives in fact 
seem to be embarrassingly frequent (particularly around the Pacific rim by 
some odd coincidence.) Here are the cases sent in:

John Koontz:
Typical Siouan languages have a verb 'to say what/something'. In
Omaha-Ponca: edehe 'what did I say', edes^e 'what did you say', ede?
'what did he say'. Also in Dakotan, e.g., Teton (Lakota).

Norvin Richards:
Ponapeian has interrogative verbs that mean things like "go
where?"--Rehg discusses these in his grammar of Ponapeian.
I've also heard Tagalog speakers inflect _ano_, the word for 'what', as a 
verb (and my Tagalog dictionary, by Leo English, lists this as a
possibility)--that gets you sentences like:
1. Umano ka diyan?
 Past-what you there
 'What did you do there?'
(the Tagalog verb _ano_ can also mean 'do something'. Don't know about the 
Ponapeian one)

Just ran across another one: Lardil (Australian, probably Pama-Nyungan)
has a verb _ngajuwa_ 'to do something, to do what?':
Ngajuwathu nyi bilaanku?
do-what-FUT you tomorrow
'What are you doing tomorrow?'

Eloise Jelinek:
The Coast Salish languages of the Northwestern U.S. have been claimed
to lack a noun/verb contrast at the lexical level. There are basic
roots which appear with inflectional material, deriving either an
NP or a VP. There are roots meaning "do something/what" or "say
something/what", etc., in these languages, as in
	steN=sxW "What are you doing?"
	c 'ns-steN "the thing that you do"
 the 2sPOSS-do:what/something

Garland D. Bills:
Although it's not real clearcut, there is something that is kind of like a 
verbal interrogative in Quechua. The interrogative forms in Quechua function 
as both interrogatives and indefinites (typically but not always with 
different discourse suffixes attached, but I'll ignore those here), e.g. 
_pi_ who, someone', _ima_ what, something'. The latter occurs with a suffix 
(that may have once been a verbalizing suffix but doesn't seem to be 
productive now) to produce what might be called a "verbal 
interrogative/indefinite" stem: _ima-na-_ happen, do what, do something'.
My impression is that it's not terribly productive, tending to occur in 
expressions like the following:
	ima-na-saq (-saq = 1 sg future)
 What shall I do?
	ima-na-su-rqa (-su = 2 obj, -rqa = past)
 What happened to you?

Martin Haspelmath:
Nivkh (Gilyak), an isolate of Sakhalin, has the verbs jad' 'do
what?' and jaGod' 'be like what?', as in: ytyk jad'?
'What is father doing?' (ytyk = father)

Gregory D. S. Anderson:
There are in fact a number of languages that have verbal interrogatives. The 
Siberian Turkic language Tuvan (Tyvan) is one such language. Both South 
Munda and North Munda, Austroasiatic languages of east-central India 
(Orissa, Bihar) possess interrogatives used verbally 'to what, to how' etc.

The list is long enough to make me feel rather naive. I wonder if there are 
any pre/postpositional interrogatives...

Lameen Souag
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