Darwin-L Message Log 5:221 (January 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<5:221>From delancey@darkwing.uoregon.edu  Sun Jan 30 17:45:02 1994

Date: Sun, 30 Jan 1994 15:34:37 -0800 (PST)
From: Scott C DeLancey <delancey@darkwing.uoregon.edu>
Subject: Re: Who, what, where, when, etc, Re: DARWIN-L digest 132
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

On Sun, 30 Jan 1994, Iain Davidson wrote:

> Why do all questions begin with this sort of phoneme (these sorts?)?  Is
> there a case in historical linguistics for some single common question root
> (or two)?

And Sally Thomason almost immediately replied:

>the main answer to Iain Davidson's question is that the single
>PIE pronoun root *kwV- is a fact about PIE, not about languages
>in general (though there are no doubt other families with
>similar related sets of interrogative pronominals).

And Iain again:

>Now we are getting somewhere?  Are there other families with
>similar related sets of interrogative pronominals?  And if there are, where
>are they and what is their history?

Indeed there are others--I can think of a couple of examples offhand,
and I suspect it's a pretty common pattern.  The history seems
pretty straightforward--you have a single interrogative, meaning something
like 'what' or 'which', and the others are constructed as this interrogative
plus a noun establishing the appropriate domain, so you get 'which place'
for 'where', 'which person' for 'who', etc.  As, for example, in Thai:

	?aray 	   'what'
	khray	   'who'             (cp. khon 'person')
	myaray	   'when'            (mya 'time, occasion')
	thawray    'how much/many'   (thaw 'quantity')
	yangray    'how'             (yang 'manner, way')

	nay        'which'
	thii nay   'where'           (thii 'place')
	yangngay   'how'             (yang 'manner, way')


Tibeto-Burman is another example; all the interrogative words that
reconstruct for the proto-language began with *k-, probably related
to a still-identificable interrogative particle #ka, except for 'who',
which reconstructs as *su and isn't related to the rest of the set.

Scott DeLancey                      delancey@darkwing.uoregon.edu
Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403

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