Q01_Initial polar Q-marker

Untitled Document

This property has the value 'yes' when neutral, information-seeking, direct polar questions (yes/no-questions) are marked by a clause initial Q(uestion)-marker.

The Q-marker can be a free particle, a clitic or a bound morpheme.

The property value is 'no' in all other cases (that is (i) the Q-marker is not initial, or (ii) there are no polar Q-markers).

A 'yes' value for this property is compatible with a 'yes' value for other expressions of polar questions.

A polar question is 'neutral and information-seeking' if:

  1. it can be answered by an expression meaning 'yes' or 'no',
  2. it expects an answer, but has little or no expectation of whether the answer will be 'yes' or 'no',
  3. it does not have narrow focus on a particular constituent.

The following are examples of questions that are not neutral, not information seeking and not direct: (why?)

  • Don't you speak French?
  • (in disapproval) Are you crazy?
  • It's cold in here, isn't it?
  • Was it last year that you two met?
  • I wonder if this is the right way.



  1. English has the value 'no' because neutral, information-seeking, direct polar questions cannot be marked by an initial particle or clitic. Instead, they are marked by a clause initial auxiliary:
    • Has John arrived?
    • Did Mary arrive as well?
    • Is Bill coming?
  2. Standard Arabic has the value 'yes' because neutral, information-seeking, direct polar questions can be marked by an initial particle "hal":
    • hal ar-rajulu jaa'a
      Q the-man come
      "Has the man come?"
Contributed by: Anders Holmberg and Craig Sailor
Language Value Contributor Comments
   =Hoan No Chris Collins
   Afrikaans No Theresa Biberauer
+ Agni indénié Yes Amoikon Dyhié ASSANVO
  Words: ásʋ̀ kófí bá
  Gloss: Q Koffi venir
  Translation: Koffi vient-il ?
  Contributor: Amoikon Dyhié ASSANVO
+ Albanian Yes Dalina Kallulli
  Words: A erdhi Beni?
  Gloss: Q came.3SG Ben.the(NOM)
  Translation: Did Ben come?
  Contributor: Dalina Kallulli
   American Sign Language Yes Natasha Abner
   Amharic No Girma Demeke
   Ancient Greek Yes Richard Faure
   Arabic, Gulf No Dimitrios Ntelitheos
   Armenian (Eastern) No Sona Haroutyunian
   Bafut No Pius Tamanji
   Bambara No Hilda Koopman
   Bandial Yes Wolfgang Berndt
   Bardi Yes Claire Bowern
+ Basaa Yes Paul Roger Bassong
  Words: (ɓàá) mudaá a-n-lɑ́mb kón *(ɛ́)
  Gloss: Q woman SM-PST1-cook rice Q
  Translation: ‘Has the woman cook rice?’
  Comment: The following sentence shows that the initial question particle is optional while the final one is mandatory. Note that the initial particle cannot stand alone; it requires its final counterpart.
  Contributor: Paul Roger Bassong
   Brazilian Portuguese No Ananda Lima
   Burmese No Timothy Ho
   Calabrian (Northern) No Giuseppina Silvestri
   Cantonese (Guangzhou) No Zixian Qiu
   Catalan No Victoria Mateu
   Chickasaw No Pam Munro
   Cypriot Greek No Marios Andreou
+ Czech No Pavel Caha
  Words: Jí Petr polívku?
  Gloss: eats Peter soup
  Translation: Does Peter eat soup? / Is Peter eating the soup?
  Comment: Compare this to the declarative example sentence in 05_Subject verb object. Set against the declarative sentence, the example shows that Czech yes/no questions put the verb to the left of the subject. There is no additional morpheme on the left periphery,
  Contributor: Pavel Caha
   Danish No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Dholuo Yes Hilda Koopman
   Dutch No Hilda Koopman
   English No Craig Sailor
   English (Singapore) No Adam Chong
   Faroese No Hjalmar Páll Petersen
+ Farsi Yes Natasha Schimka
  Words: âyâ in khub ast?
  Gloss: Q this good be.3SG.PRS
  Translation: Is this good?
  Contributor: Natasha Schimka
   Finnish No Anders Holmberg
+ French Yes Vincent Homer The answer is "yes" because we count "est-ce que..." as a Q-marker, as in "est-ce qu'il pleut ?" ("is it raining?").
  Words: Est-ce que tu aimes faire du shopping?
  Gloss: Q 2SG like-PRS do-INF shopping
  Translation: Do you like to shop?
  Contributor: Hannah Kim
   Ga Yes Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu
   galician No Naír García
   Garifuna No Pam Munro
   georgian No Lea Nash
   German No Viola Schmitt
   Gothic No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
+ Greek No Giorgos Spathas
  Words: E-fta-se o Janis s-to stathm-o?
  Gloss: PST-arrive-PST.3.SG the.NOM.SG John to-ACC.SG station-ACC.SG
  Translation: 'Has John arrived at the station?'
  Comment: Greek allows both SV and VS orders. Polar questions always involve V- or Aux-fronting and special intonation.
  Contributor: Giorgos Spathas
   Greek (Cappadocian) No Petros Karatsareas
   Greek (Homer) No Chiara Bozzone
   Greek (Medieval) Yes Io Manolessou
   Guébie No Hannah Sande
   Gungbe (Porto-Novo) No Enoch Oladé Aboh
   Haitian Yes Michel DeGraff
   Hausa No Russell Schuh
+ Hebrew Yes Ur Shlonsky
  Words: ha'im ha rakevet higi'a ?
  Gloss: Q the train arrived
  Translation: 'Has the train arrived ?'
  Contributor: Ur Shlonsky
   Hebrew (Biblical) Yes Massimo Gargiulo
   Hindi Yes Anoop Mahajan
   Hungarian No Anna Szabolcsi
   Ibibio No Willie Willie
   Icelandic No Jim Wood
   Igbo No Mary Amaechi
   Iha No Mark Donohue
   imbabura quichua No UCLA Linguistics 210
   Indonesian Yes Mark Donohue
   Italian No Adriana Belletti
   Italian (Napoletano Antico) No Adam Ledgeway
   Italian (Reggiano) No Giovanni Roversi
   Jamaican Creole English Yes Stephanie Durrleman
   Japanese No Jun Yashima
   K'iche' Yes Pam Munro
   Kashaya No John Gluckman
   KiLega Yes Kasangati Kinyalolo
   Kinande No Patricia Schneider-Zioga and Philip Mutaka
   Kom No Richard Kwamong
   Korean No Grace Lee
   Koyo No Hilda Koopman
   Kuot No Eva Lindström
+ Kurdish (Sorani) No Yadgar Karimi
  Words: (aya) sarok-komar zu chak abetawa?
  Gloss: (Q) head-republic soon well be.3SG
  Translation: will the president recover soon?
  Comment: The advent of (aya) into kurdish is the under the direct influence of Persian. This structure is still considered highly marked and bookish (in both languages). in the nuetral contect, however, yes/no questions are created using a declrative clause with a rising intonation in Kurdish (and in Persina).
  Contributor: Yadgar Karimi
   Kusunda No Mark Donohue
   Laal No Florian Lionnet
   Lango No Arwa Rangwala
   Lao No Alif Silpachai
   Latin No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Latin (Late) No Chiara Gianollo Particle 'ne' is second-position due to its clitic status, hence falls under Property Q03_Clause internal polar Q-marker
+ Lithuanian Yes Felix Thies
  Words: Ar matei tą filmą?
  Gloss: Q see.PST.2.SG that.ACC.SG.M film.ACC.SG
  Translation: Did you see that film?
  Contributor: Felix Thies
   Maasai (Kisongo) Yes Hilda Koopman
   Mada No Bebey Théodore
+ Malagasy No Ed Keenan and Laura Kalin
  Words: ...ka moa va tsy tokony ho tantaraina amin'ny taranaka rehetra
  Gloss: Q Q not should FUT be.told.TT to'the descendants all
  Translation: Should (this story) be told to all the future generations?
  Comment: Although the main strategy for forming polar questions is using the 've/va' particle, there is a secondary way to form these questions which is illustrated here. This involves an initial 'moa', which is an emphatic, normally accompanied by another question marker or negation (when it's used for polar questions). We do not think that moa is an independent question word in the way that ve/va is.
  Contributor: Ed Keenan and Laura Kalin
   Malayalam No Mythili Menon
   Mandarin No Arthur Wang
   Marshallese No Heather Willson Sturman
+ Moroccan Arabic Yes Arwa Rangwala
  Words: wash ‘indak el.feloos
  Gloss: Q at.2SPOSS.M DEF.money
  Translation: Do you have money?
  Contributor: Arwa Rangwala
  Words: wash ‘indak shi.feloos
  Gloss: Q at.2SPOSS.M some.money
  Translation: Do you have money?
  Contributor: Arwa Rangwala
   Muyang No Bebey Théodore
   Nahuatl (Central Huasteca) No John Garcia
   Nawdm No Hannah Kim
   Nepali No Mark Donohue
   Nkore-Kiga No Hilda Koopman
   Northern Thai No Alif Silpachai
   Norwegian No Marit Julien
   Nupe Yes Jason Kandybowicz
   Nweh No Hilda Koopman
   Old English No ---
   Old French No Heather Burnett
   Old Norse No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
+ Old Saxon No George Walkden Two examples exist in the Heliand of hweđar acting as a Q-marker in a direct polar question. See section 4.4.2 of Walkden, George (2014). Syntactic Reconstruction and Proto-Germanic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  Words: hueđer thu that fan thi selƀumu sprikis ... the it thi ôđre hêr erlos sagdun
  Gloss: whether you that from you self speak or it you other here men told
  Translation: Is that what you yourself say, or what others have told you?
  Comment: (Heliand 5207-5208)
  Contributor: George Walkden
  Words: huueđer lêdiad gi uundan gold te geƀu huilicun gumuno?
  Gloss: whether lead you wound gold to gift.DAT which.DAT men.GEN
  Translation: To whom are you taking wound gold as a gift?
  Comment: (Heliand 554–555) The structure of this example is unclear.
  Contributor: George Walkden
   Oluwanga (Eji) No Ceciliane Odangah
   panjabi Yes Gurprit Bains
   Pashto Yes David Pate
+ Polish Yes Barbara Tomaszewicz
  Words: Czy Piotr je zupę?
  Gloss: Q Peter eats soup
  Translation: Does Peter eat soup? / Is Peter eating soup?
  Comment: The question marker 'czy' can be omitted and the standard declarative word order receives an interrogative intonation only. Interestingly, 'czy' is homophonous with disjunction: "Wolisz Sprite czy Colę?" ('Do you prefer Sprite or Coca-Cola?')
  Contributor: Barbara Tomaszewicz
   Portuguese No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Q'anjob'al Yes Kathleen O'Flynn
   Romanian No Monica Alexandrina Irimia
   Russian No Denis Paperno
   Samoan Yes Hilda Koopman
   San Dionisio Ocotepec Zapotec Yes George Aaron Broadwell
   Sandawe No Helen Eaton
   Sasak Yes Nur Ahmadi and Eli Asikin-Garmager
   Shan Yes Alif Silpachai
   Shupamem No Abdoulaye Laziz Nchare
+ Sicilian Yes Cristina Guardiano The Q-marker precedes the verb. Polar questions without the Q-marker are sometimes accepted by some speakers, but very marginally.
  Words: ki arrwàu Màrju?
  Gloss: what arrived Mario
  Translation: Has Mario arrived?
  Comment: Also accepted: Màrju ki arrwàu? (Hardly accepted: Màrju arrwàu?)
  Contributor: Cristina Guardiano
   Skou No Mark Donohue
   Spanish No Victoria Mateu
   Swedish No fredrik heinat
   Tagalog No Edith Aldridge
   Taiwanese Southern Min No Arthur Wang
+ Teramano Yes Iara Mantenuto
  Words: ke a kutʃinitə Lenə
  Gloss: what has cooked Elena
  Translation: Did Elena cook?
  Contributor: Iara Mantenuto
   Thai No Alif Silpachai
   Tommo-So No Laura McPherson
   Triqui, Copala No George Aaron Broadwell
   Tukang Besi No Mark Donohue
+ Tuki (Tukombo) Yes Edmond Biloa
  Words: yEE o-mu-suwa tsono roo
  Gloss: Q you P1 wash clothes your?
  Translation: Did you wash your clothes?
  Comment: (E=epsilon)
  Contributor: Edmond Biloa
   Tupi (Ancient) No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Turkish No Deniz Ozyildiz
   Twi No Cansada Martin
   Vata No Hilda Koopman
+ Vietnamese Yes Binh Ngo
  Words: có phải Nam học lớp này không?
  Gloss: Q Nam study class this Q
  Translation: "Is Nam taking this class?"
  Contributor: Binh Ngo
   Warlpiri No Margit Bowler
   West Flemish No Liliane Haegeman
   Western Armenian No Hrayr Khanjian
   Wolane Not Yet Set Hannah Kim
   Wolof Yes Mariame Sy
   Wuhu Chinese No Zhuo Chen 'ha' can occur initially but the questions are biased towards positive answers (and sometimes involve narrow focus).
   Xhosa No Xiujie Ma
   Yémba No Elsie Mawamba
   Zamboageño Chabacano No Grace Gaspardo
   Zulu No Claire Halpert