You are on page 1of 6

YES – NO QUESTIONS

A question is refered to as a yes-no question when the person responding is expected to answer “yes” or “no” (e.g. “Are you feeling better?”). as opposed to the way one supplies information in answering a question such as “What is today’s date?” Problems fo learners Yes-no question formation in English is often difficult for beginning ESL/EFL students to master. English forms yes-no questions by means of inversion-so do some other languages, such as German, but generally their inversion rule is simpler than the english one. An analysis of yes-no questions Consider the following yes-no questions: 1. Are the children playing in the yard? 2. Will John study linguistics? 3. Has Alice gone home? 4. Were you able to see George? Yes-no questions in English have only one auxiliary element to the left of the subject NP/Furthermore., the auxiliary that is moved to sentence initial position is the auxiliary which occupies the first position in the sequence of auxiliaries in the base structure. The Q marker which appears in the basic structure is a sentence marker which calls for the yes-no question transformation (i.e. subject/auxiliary inversion). Sentence : Had Mark seen the later? S SM Q NP N NUC AUX tense perf V VP NP

Mark

past

HAVE

EN

see

det The

N letter

The latter will have to be practiced separately. Do you have Any A polite hostess making an offer for the first time would undoubtedly use some in her version of the first question. vary with regard to yes-no question formation. Behave like Auxiliaries (first element inverts) be going to (“Are you going to stay?”) be able to be to be supposed to had better would rather would like to would prefer to Require Do Support used to (“Did you use to?”) have to (“Do you have to?”) .Some / any variation in yes-no questions In yes-no questions there is subtle variation between some and any that cannot be explained using the some/any suppletion rule discussed in the preceding. Consider questions like these : Some 1. unlike the modal auxiliaries. but a few require DO support. scratch paper? Elliptical Yes-No Questions At smoe point you will want to expose your intermediate and advanced level students to informal yes-no questions that occur without an initial auxiliary. Such questions are fairly frequent in informal conversations between native speakers and are different from uninverted yes-no questions. Do you want coffee? Any Some 2. The same question with any is more informal. Most treat their first element as an auxiliary verb that can be inverted. (Are) you going to the movies? (were) they supposed to finish the work last night? (Has) she been feeling better? (Do) you know Fred Callaghan? The Periphrastic Modals and Yes-No Questions The periphrastic modals.

Intensifier : How smart is she? How fast can he run? 9. Quantity determiners: How many cars does she have? How much wine did he drink? 8. and means: When did you leave? Why is he laughing? Where did you go? How did he get to the party? (by bus) How did she dance? (gracefully) 5. Consider the following sentences: Dis someone walk the dog? Who walked the dog? Types of wh-questions There are at least nine different types that you should be aware of: 1. Adjective phrase (state. reason. Possesive determiners: whose book is that? 7. Demonstrative determiners: What Book do you want? Which 6. In some traditional grammars.WH-QUESTIONS Wh-questions are a complex topic because of the variety of wh-question types in English and because some of them are definitely harder to learn than others. condition): How are you? Wh-questions that focus on the subject First examine an sample tree diagram and derivation for a wh-question that focuses on the subject NP. Object NP: Who(m) did you see? What did you do? 3. manner. yes-no questions are called “general” question because the whole preposition is being questioned. Who broke the window? S NUC NP Pro AUX T V break det The VP NP N window Someone + Q past . place. Object of a preposition: who(m) did you talk to?/To whom did you talk? 4. Adverbials of time. Subject NP: what happened? Who left? 2.

Negative wh-questions Negative wh-questions that question something in the predicate also have two different surface forms depending on whether NOT contraction has taken place. The correct basic structure for this question is: S NUC NP det that N object AUX T pres BE VP NP Pro something + Q The transformational rules needed to derive this wh-question are: Output of base: that object pres BE something + Q Wh—replacement: that object pres BE what Wh-fronting: what that object pres BE Subject/auxiliary inversion: what pres BE that object Affix attachment (1X): what BE + pres that object Subject-verb agreement and morphological rules: what is that object? Uninverted wh-questions It should perhaps also be mentioned that wh-fronting and subject/auxiliary inversion may be supressed in certain wh-questions that express surprise or disbelief.Wh-questions with the copula BE Example : What is that object? Some of you may think at first that the subject NP is being questioned and that onlywh-replacement is needed. .

A boy played in the street c. *The bacon (a singular unit) is lying next to another one. . Bacon is naturally salty. c. *A bacon fell onto my plate.e. h. Structural facts about articles All common nouns must be further classified as mass (e. COUNT (f to h are ungrammatical) a. *The bacons got cold. a suitcase) because only count nouns can have singular and/or plural forms: Mass Count *Two waters: *a water two beverages: a beverage *two clothings: * a clothing two shirts: a shirt *two luggages: *a luggage two suitcases: a suitcase The mass-count distinction MASS (a to e are ungrammatical) a. *Boy is made of snails and puppy-dog tails. b.e. g. Boys are made of snails and puppy-dog tails.g.. water. g. the n in an and one are historically related. *Bacons are for eating f. f. d. *Some bacons were in the cupboard. Article Usage For this aspect of article usage we have to consider the discourse context (i. Some bacon was found in the cupboard. The bacon was to salty. b. *Some boy made up the scount troop. Some boys played in the street.e. luggage) or count(a beverage. e. ashirt. helps explain why the form of the indefinite article occuring before a word with an initial vowel sound is an. d. The boy played in the street. h. *The boy (uncountable amount) was not enough for the scout troop.THE ARTICLE SYSTEM The definite article is derived from the demonstrative signaling distance(i. i. The boys played in the street. how familiar the speaker/writer is (and thinks the listener/reader is) with the noun(s) being mentioned). that) while the indefinite article is derived from the numerol one. e. The latter derivation for example. clothing.

: I saw a funny-looking dog to day.. etc: the book. I need chairs.: I need a new belt. e. the baby. unique by pointing. the earth. unique for a given setting: the blackboard. (lower right quadrant of the matrix) 3. the garden. Potential Ambiguity of The Indefinite Article The indefinite article . To introduce a noun to the listener that is specific for the speaker but not the listener. unique by a specified order or rank in a set: the last sentence on the page: the fastest runner in the heat. To show that the noun does not have a specific referent for either the speaker or the listener.g. the dog. unique for a given social group: the car.. unique for all: the moon. (i. unique by anticipation: we found the hubcap of a car that must be very expensive. unique because of characteristics that get attention: the explosion.g. A later reference in the discourse to such an indefinite noun can help disambiguate. 5. To refer to anoun that is nonspecific for the speaker but which is assumed to be specific for the listener. . 3. we would add two more: 9. e. the floor. Generic Noun Phrase Example : I need some chairs. unique by prior utterance Isaw a funny-looking dog to day.e. 4. or pretends to guess.) To Brown’s eight categories.especially in object position . 8. the streaker. the ceiling.Definite Article Usage 1. 10. Ie. the kitchen) 7. The speaker guesses. unique by definition: the house with a view. The Indefinite Article With Predicate Nominals Example : This is a pencil John is a teacher Indefinite vs. the chair.may be ambiguous as to whether it modifies a noun that is specific or nonspecific for the speaker. the girl who speaks basque. the sun 2. nodding. The dog. Indefinite Article Usage Brown’s matrix shows us that the indefinite article is used to perform a number of discourse functions: 1. 6. the president. unique by entailment: (in talking about a house: the windows. lower left quadrant of the matrix) 2.