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Interrogative Pronominal Afro-Asiatic languages

Interrogative Pronominal Afro-Asiatic languages

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Published by Azurag Arrif
Interrogative Pronominal Afro-Asiatic languages
Interrogative Pronominal Afro-Asiatic languages

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Published by: Azurag Arrif on Dec 20, 2010
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04/14/2013

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 III. Lack of differentiation
150
(38)
ʘ 
’u ki- 
ǁ 
kain ya u ’a-ci? 
duiker 
IPW
 
Q
2
SG
 
PROG
-see‘Which duiker do you see?’(39)
u ’a-’am 
ǁ 
ka’’e ya? 
2
SG
 
PROG
-eat meat
Q
 ‘Are you eating meat?’If the gloss in (37) is correct, then
ú
Hõã will be the second “Khoisan” languagenext to Eastern !Xóõ that uses a single form for ‘who?’ and ‘what?’. The fact thetwo languages are spoken in the immediate vicinity of each other provides anindirect indication that this is indeed the case. Furthermore, an unpublishedwordlist in Gruber (1975) gives two forms both glossed as ‘who?, what?’:
’ 
ǎ 
’’ri 
 with a variant
ǃ 
ǎ 
’’ri 
.
25
Unfortunately, my attempts to contact Chris Collins andJeff Gruber to clarify this issue have not had any success.
2.3 Afro-Asiatic languages
2.3.1 Introduction
The Afro-Asiatic phylum consists of at least six major branches: Berber,Egyptian, Semitic, Chadic, Cushitic and Omotic. Languages with interrogative pronominals used indiscriminately as ‘who?’ or ‘what?’ appear to exist in four of them, Berber (Section III.2.3.2), Egyptian (Section III.2.3.3), Semitic (SectionIII.2.3.4), and Cushitic (Section III.2.3.5).The branches differ in how numerous the languages with ‘who?, what?’interrogatives are. While they seem to abound in Berber, Semitic has to becontent with just a few, and Cushitic has only one. Egyptian is a single-language branch. Egyptian data must be considered with some caution, though, since it isan extinct language with much of the data recorded in a less than perfectorthography. As to the remaining two branches, Chadic and Omotic, they seem tolack such ‘who?, what?’ interrogatives. Note, however, that they are also the leastdescribed branches and Chadic is at the same time by far the biggest branch asregards the number of its living members.The branches also appear to differ in the ways they have arrived at the lack of formal differentiation between ‘who?’ and ‘what?’. In Berber, where existence of ‘who?, what?’ interrogatives seems to be particularly ancient, languages alsohave surprisingly large inventories of interrogative pronominals. In all probability, the two facts are related and are both primarily due to the fact thatBerber interrogative pronominals are not single morphemes but constructionsconsisting of a general interrogative root ‘who?, what?, which one?’ (normally,
25
The sign <
’’ 
> marks pharingealization of the vowel, the rising tone is marked only on the firstvowel.
 
 
2. Africa and the Middle East 
151
) and a demonstrative pronominal that typically introduces a relative clause.Structurally, these constructions are similar to those used for the purpose of focalization and can be analyzed as clefting. The kind of demonstrative pronominal used determines whether and how a distinction between ‘who?’ and‘what?’ is made (cf. Sections III.2.3.2.2.1 and III.2.3.2.3).Provided the analysis in Section III.2.3.3.2.1 is correct, Egyptian must havealso had a general interrogative root ‘who?, what?, which one?’ of the form */
m
/or */
mi
~
ma
/, which gradually disappeared as an independent entity in later stages of Egyptian’s history. For a certain time, a new interrogative ‘who?,what?, which one?’ has developed from the masculine singular demonstratives
 pw 
, but it has been lost later as well (Section III.2.3.3.2.2). Finally, with oneinterrogative, viz.
zy 
, Egyptian also appears to have allowed a lack of differentiation between ‘who?’ and ‘what?’ in predicative use (SectionIII.2.3.3.2.4).In Semitic, in the cases where enough unambiguous data are available,‘who?, what?’ interrogatives seem to be relatively recent semantic expansions of the interrogative *
man 
(or the like) ‘who?’. In all probability, thesedevelopments have been instigated by a preceding expansion to the meaning‘who?’ of the interrogative root *
ˀ  
ay 
(or the like), originally ‘where?’, but also pronominally in the meaning ‘which one?’ and/or attributively as ‘which [N]?,what (kind of) [N]?’. The expansion of *
ˀ  
ay 
(or the like) to the meaning ‘whichone?’ must have resulted in a certain competition between the two interrogatives,which apparently involved some oscillation in the semantics of the originalinterrogative ‘who?’. Furthermore, with the “Canaano-Akkadian” mixedlanguage, an extinct mixed East-West Semitic idiom (ca. 1350 BC), Semitic may provide an interesting example of the development of a ‘who?, what?’interrogative as a result of an imperfect fusion of the superstrate with thesubstrate, East and West Semitic languages respectively, which happened to havethe same form, or two very similar forms, but with opposite meanings, ‘who?’and ‘what?’. Finally, although most of the attested cases of ‘who?, what?’interrogatives in Semitic are likely to be relatively recent, a cross-Semiticcomparison of interrogative pronominals suggests (cf. Section III.2.3.4.1.1) thatProto-Semitic may have had at least one interrogative pronominal ‘who?, what?’, probably *
mi 
, next to *
man 
‘who?’ and *
ma 
‘what?’. However, it must have become specialized in one of the two meanings rather early in the history of Semitic languages through its fusion with a deictic element that followed it, thatis due to conventionalization of a Berber-like structure [interrogative + deictic],which is probably best analyzed as clefting.In the single Cushitic language with a ‘who?, what?’ interrogative,Saho, this interrogative must have evolved somewhat similarly to what we find inSemitic. The main difference is that it is the interrogative root *
ˀ  
ay 
(or the like),
 
 III. Lack of differentiation
152
originally ‘where?’, but also pronominally in the meaning ‘which one?’ (and/or attributively as ‘which [N]?, what (kind of) [N]?’), that has prevailed after having been expanded to cover non-selective contexts as well, in questions about boththings and persons.The fact that languages with ‘who?, what?’ interrogative pronominals appear to exist in four of the six major branches of Afro-Asiatic considered together with the phylum’s immense age, ranging from 12000 to 20000-30000 years,depending on the scholar (cf. Militarev 2005:340, 398), may be indicative of some kind of structural inclination going back to the early stages in the history of Afro-Asiatic. More recent innovations of ‘who?, what?’ interrogatives providefurther support for the existence of such a structural inclination. I believe that thisinclination must be due to the way the system of interrogative pronominals wasorganized in early Afro-Asiatic languages. To various extents, traces of thissystem appear to persist in the more recent languages. I have tried to summarizethose that seem to be the most relevant in (40).(40)
Some relevant features of interrogative pronominal systems in Afro-Asiaticlanguages
 a. A relatively high number of languages with interrogative pronominalsused indiscriminately as ‘who?’ or ‘what?’. b. The most recurrent forms that interrogative pronominals show in theAfro-Asiatic languages can be organized in two groups, non-selective*
~
mi 
~
ma 
‘who?, what?’, and selective *
ˀ  
ay 
(or the like) ‘whichone?’. The latter clearly goes back to an interrogative ‘where?’ (cf.Lipi
ń
ski 1997:328).c. There seem to be rather many languages that do not allow, or at leastdisprefer, attributive constructions of the ‘which [N]?, what (kind of)[N]?’ type. To a large extent, this may be due to the ‘where?’ origin of the interrogatives with such semantics.d. Widespread tendency to conventionalize constituent questions as cleftsof the structure [interrogative + deictic]Feature (40a) suggests that in some proto-stage such ‘who?, what?’ interrogativesmay have existed as well. As for (40b), many forms of the interrogative pronominals can be found further in sections on particular branches of Afro-Asiatic, but to give some support to my statement here and now, let us simplyconsider some of the available reconstructions of Afro-Asiatic interrogative pronominals. Note that the reconstructions hardly ever mention the selectiveinterrogative ‘which one?’. In his overview of the Afro-Asiatic phylum,Diakonoff (1965:75 [1988]) mentions a pronominal base
m- 
, which has served asthe source for “interrogative (and indefinite) pronouns” in many Afro-Asiatic

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