Q04_Polar question by intonation

Untitled Document

This property has the value 'yes' when intonation can be the only marker of neutral, information-seeking, direct polar questions.

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



  1. English has the value 'no' for this property. While rising intonation may be added to a declarative sentence in order to seek confirmation or express surprise about a positive or negative proposition, this is not sufficient for a 'yes' value, since the resulting question is not a neutral information-seeking question.
    • He drinks coffee?
      (The speaker expresses surprise or seeks confirmation: this is not a neutral information-seeking question)

    • [More...]
  2. Syrian Arabic has the value 'yes' for this property. In the following sentence, interpreted as a neutral, information-seeking, direct polar question, intonation (a final rise) is the only distinction between a question and a declarative.
    • akhw-ki b-yshrab ahweh
      brother-your INDIC-drinks coffee
      "Does your brother drink coffee?"
Contributed by: Anders Holmberg and Craig Sailor
Language Value Contributor Comments
   =Hoan No Chris Collins
   Afrikaans No Theresa Biberauer
   Albanian Yes Dalina Kallulli
   American Sign Language Yes Natasha Abner Non-manual marking
+ Amharic Yes Girma Demeke
  Comment: Polar question are often formed by a rising intonation on the last syllable of the verb which also occupies sentence final position.
  Contributor: Girma Demeke
   Ancient Greek Yes Richard Faure
+ Arabic, Gulf Yes Dimitrios Ntelitheos
  Words: derast al-emtehan?
  Gloss: study.PST.2SGM DET-exam?
  Translation: did you study the exam?
  Contributor: Shaikha Saeed
   Armenian (Eastern) Yes Sona Haroutyunian
+ Bafut Yes Pius Tamanji
  Words: mfɔ̀ wá kɨ̀ nó mɨ̀lù’ù?
  Gloss: chief the PST drink wine
  Translation: Did the chief drink wine?
  Comment: The speaker has to raise intonation for the utterance to be interpreted as a polar question. See Tamanji (2009) for other characteristics of polar questions in Bafut
  Contributor: Pius Tamanji
   Bambara No Hilda Koopman
   Bandial Yes Wolfgang Berndt
   Basaa No Paul Roger Bassong
   Brazilian Portuguese Yes Ananda Lima
   Calabrian (Northern) Yes Giuseppina Silvestri
+ Cantonese (Guangzhou) No Zixian Qiu
  Comment: The statement “keoi-dei jam gaafe (they drink coffee, ‘Do they drink coffee?’)” can be changed in to a question with intonation. According to native speakers’ judgments, the speaker tend to seeks confirmation through this question form as its English counterpart “They drink coffee?”, but the speaker may try to ask a yes/no question at the same time.
  Contributor: Zixian Qiu
+ Catalan Yes Victoria Mateu
  Words: Beus café cada matí?
  Gloss: drink.PRES.2SG coffee every morning
  Translation: Do you drink coffee every morning?
  Comment: When the subject is an overt DP we find verb-subject inversion, e.g. 'Beu café en Joan?’ (‘Does John drink coffee?). However, when the subject is null, intonation is the only distinction between a declarative and a question, e.g. 'Beus café cada mati' ('You drink coffee every morning') vs. 'Beus café cada matí?' ('Do you drink coffee every morning?')
  Contributor: Victoria Mateu
   Chickasaw Yes Pam Munro
   Cypriot Greek No Marios Andreou
+ Czech No Pavel Caha
  Words: Petr jí polívku?
  Gloss: Peter eats soup
  Translation: Peter eats soup?
  Comment: In comparison to the declarative in 05_svo, this sentence has a raising intonation at the end (typical for Cz questions). However, it does not front the verb (compare the example in Q_01). The meaning is dependent on further factors. If the main stress falls on "soup", and the raising intonation starts there, the meaning is surprise. With stress on the verb, one meaning is: does he eat it or drink it? Another one: does also Peter eat soup? Value set to NO, as these are not "neutral."
  Contributor: Pavel Caha
   Danish No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
+ Dholuo Yes Hilda Koopman
  Words: A. lith B lith
  Gloss: A. hurt.imperf? B hurt.imperf
  Translation: A: Does it hurt? B it's hurting
  Comment: In imperfective aspect, there is a a zero 3rd person expletive. the perfective aspect always bundles perfective aspect and subject agreement: olith (it.hurt.perfective))
  Contributor: Hilda Koopman
   Dutch Yes Hilda Koopman
   English No Craig Sailor
   English (Singapore) No Adam Chong
   Faroese No Hjalmar Páll Petersen
   Farsi Yes Natasha Schimka
+ Fijian Yes Zhenyu Sun
  Words: e levu na tamata?
  Gloss: 3S big DEF person
  Translation: ‘Is the person big?’
  Contributor: Zhenyu Sun
  Words: e na soko-tak-a nikua?
  Gloss: 3S FT sail-TR-3S today
  Translation: ‘will he sail it today?’
  Contributor: Zhenyu Sun
   Finnish No Anders Holmberg
+ French Yes Vincent Homer
  Words: Vous parlez francais?
  Gloss: 2PL speak-PRS French
  Translation: “Do you speak French?”
  Contributor: Hannah Kim
   Ga Yes Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu
   galician No Naír García
   Garifuna Yes Pam Munro
   georgian Yes Lea Nash
   Gothic No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
+ Greek No Giorgos Spathas
  Words: O Janis e-fta-se s-to stathm-o?
  Gloss: the.NOM.SG John PST-arrive-PST.3.SG 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. The SV order in the example is grammatical as a polar question. However, it involves a left dislocated nominative subject, so it cannot be taken as an instance of a neutral polar question with SV order. Left dislocation is detected by special contrastive topic intonation on the subject. The rest of the clause exhibits the usual polar question intonation. When the contrastive intonation on the subje
  Contributor: Giorgos Spathas
   Greek (Cappadocian) No Petros Karatsareas
   Greek (Homer) Yes Chiara Bozzone
   Greek (Medieval) Yes Io Manolessou
   Guébie No Hannah Sande
   Gungbe (Porto-Novo) No Enoch Oladé Aboh
+ Haitian Yes Michel DeGraff
  Words: Jan rive?
  Gloss: Jan arrive?
  Translation: Has John arrived?
  Contributor: Michel DeGraff
   Hausa Yes Russell Schuh
   Hebrew Yes Ur Shlonsky
+ Hebrew (Biblical) Yes Massimo Gargiulo
  Words: shalom boheka (1 Sam 16,4)
  Gloss: peace to come.INF+SUFF 2
  Translation: Do you come in peace?
  Comment: Being a written language only, the intonation can be inferred just from the context and sometimes, as in this example- from the word order.
  Contributor: Massimo Gargiulo
   Hindi Yes Anoop Mahajan
   Hittite Yes Mattyas Huggard
   Hungarian Yes Anna Szabolcsi
   Ibibio Yes Willie Willie
   Icelandic No Jim Wood
   Igbo Yes Mary Amaechi
   Iha Yes Mark Donohue
   imbabura quichua No UCLA Linguistics 210
   Indonesian Yes Mark Donohue
   Italian Yes Adriana Belletti
   Italian (Napoletano Antico) NA Adam Ledgeway
   Italian (Reggiano) Yes Giovanni Roversi
   Japanese Yes Jun Yashima
   K'iche' Yes Pam Munro
   Kashaya Yes John Gluckman
   KiLega Yes Kasangati Kinyalolo
   Kinande Yes Patricia Schneider-Zioga and Philip Mutaka
   Kom No Richard Kwamong
+ Korean Yes Grace Lee
  Words: pay kopha?
  Gloss: Hungry?
  Translation: Are you hungry?
  Comment: 배고파?
  Contributor: Grace Lee
   Kuot Yes Eva Lindström
+ Kurdish (Sorani) Yes Yadgar Karimi
  Words: bra-ka=t qawa a-xwa-t?
  Gloss: brother-DEF=2SG coffee IND-drink-3SG
  Translation: Does your brother drink coffee?
  Comment: with rising intonation
  Contributor: Yadgar Karimi
   Kusunda Yes Mark Donohue
   Laal No Florian Lionnet
   Lango Yes Arwa Rangwala "Interrogative sentences·of all types have a rising intonation contour that peaks sharply on the last two syllables" (Noonan 1992:172).
   Lao No Alif Silpachai
   Latin No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
+ Latin (Late) Yes Chiara Gianollo
  Words: qui cum accessisset ad eam ait illi 'tu es Ioab?' et ille respondit 'ego'
  Gloss: who:NOM when approach:SBJV.PRFV.3SG to she:ACC say:PRS.3SG that:DAT PERS.PR.2SG.NOM be:PRS.2SG Ioab and that:NOM answer:IPFV.3PL PERS.PR.1SG.NOM
  Translation: When he approached her the woman said "Are you Joab?" And he answered "I am."
  Comment: (II Samuelis 20:17) no difference in word order with respect to a declarative clause - Biblia Sacra Vulgata, 4th cent. CE.
  Contributor: Chiara Gianollo
   Mada Yes Bebey Théodore
   Malagasy No Ed Keenan and Laura Kalin
   Malayalam No Mythili Menon
   Mandarin No Arthur Wang
   Moroccan Arabic Yes Arwa Rangwala
+ Muyang Yes Bebey Théodore
  Words: Lawan ó zúm ɗaf dó
  Gloss: Lawan 3SG eat food Neg.Q
  Translation: Doesn't Lawan eat food?
  Comment: Negation carries the High tone of the question particle
  Contributor: Bebey Théodore
   Nahuatl (Central Huasteca) Yes John Garcia
   Nepali Yes Mark Donohue
   Nkore-Kiga Yes Arwa Rangwala
   Northern Thai No Alif Silpachai
   Norwegian No Marit Julien
   Nupe No Jason Kandybowicz
   Nweh No Hilda Koopman All polar questions seem to add at least a final mora, which I take to be the spell out of a final question particle consisting of a mora. The realization of the final question particle (lenghtening versus lE) depends on ill understood syntactic variables: These include tense/aspect interactions and the present vs abence of a verb complement or a postverbal adjunct. (cf Nkemnji: 154 ff.
   Old English No ---
   Old French NA Heather Burnett
   Old Saxon No George Walkden
+ Oluwanga (Eji) Yes Ceciliane Odangah
  Words: O-li weshiigwa?
  Gloss: 2sg-be crazy
  Translation: Are you crazy?
  Contributor: Ceciliane Odangah
  Words: O –lomaloma-nga lusungu?
  Gloss: 2sg-speak-HAB. English
  Translation: Do you speak English?
  Contributor: Ceciliane Odangah
   panjabi Yes Gurprit Bains
   Pashto Yes David Pate
+ Polish Yes Barbara Tomaszewicz
  Words: Piotr je zupę?
  Gloss: Peter eats soup
  Translation: Does Peter eat soup? / Is Peter eating soup?
  Contributor: Barbara Tomaszewicz
+ Portuguese Yes Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
  Words: Ele canta. / Ele canta?
  Gloss: he sing.3SG / he sing.3SG
  Translation: He sings. Does he sing?
  Comment: Both sentences are the same, but the question has a different intonation.
  Contributor: Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Q'anjob'al Yes Kathleen O'Flynn
   Romanian No Monica Alexandrina Irimia
   Russian Yes Denis Paperno
   Samoan Yes Hilda Koopman
   San Dionisio Ocotepec Zapotec No George Aaron Broadwell
   Sandawe Yes Helen Eaton
   Shan No Alif Silpachai
   Shupamem Yes Abdoulaye Laziz Nchare
   Sicilian Yes Cristina Guardiano
   Skou Yes Mark Donohue
+ Spanish Yes Victoria Mateu
  Words: Bebes café cada mañana?
  Gloss: drink.PRES.2SG coffee every morning
  Translation: Do you drink coffee every morning?
  Comment: When the subject is an overt DP we find verb-subject inversion, e.g. '¿Bebe café Juan?’ (‘Does John drink coffee?). However, when the subject is null, intonation is the only distinction between a declarative and a question, e.g. 'Bebes café cada mañana' ('You drink coffee every morning') vs. 'Bebes café cada mañana?' ('Do you drink coffee every morning?')
  Contributor: Victoria Mateu
   Swedish No fredrik heinat
   Tagalog No Edith Aldridge
   Taiwanese Southern Min No Arthur Wang
   Teramano Yes Iara Mantenuto
   Thai No Alif Silpachai
+ Tommo-So Yes Laura McPherson
  Words: Ú ɲ́j-ìyò-dɛ̀-w↑
  Gloss: 2SG.PRO lie.down-MP-IMPF-2SG.S
  Translation: ‘Are you going to bed?’ (414: 770a).
  Comment: The arrow marks the rising intonation. From A Grammar of Tommo So by Laura Mcpherson (2012).
  Contributor: Hannah Kim
   Triqui, Copala No George Aaron Broadwell
   Tukang Besi Yes Mark Donohue
   Tuki (Tukombo) Yes Edmond Biloa
   Tupi (Ancient) No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Turkish Yes Deniz Ozyildiz
   Twi No Cansada Martin
   Vata No Hilda Koopman
   Vietnamese No Binh Ngo
   Warlpiri Yes Margit Bowler
+ West Flemish Yes Liliane Haegeman
  Words: Valère is no Parys geweest?
  Gloss: Valère be-pres 3sg to Paris be-part
  Translation: Has Valère been to Paris
  Contributor: Liliane Haegeman
   Western Armenian Yes Hrayr Khanjian
+ Wolane Yes Hannah Kim
  Words: ʔənne šāmilə̀n / ʔənne šāmilə́n
  Gloss: this Shamil-COP:3sm / this Shamil-COP:3sm
  Translation: 'This is Shamil' / 'Is this Shamil?' (313).
  Comment: There is no difference between the declarative and the polar question except in a rising intonation at the end of the question.
  Contributor: Hannah Kim
   Wolof Yes Mariame Sy
   Wuhu Chinese No Zhuo Chen
   Xhosa Yes Xiujie Ma
   Yémba Yes Elsie Mawamba
+ Zamboageño Chabacano Yes Grace Gaspardo
  Words: Ya come ya tu?
  Gloss: PST eat already you
  Translation: ‘Have you eaten?’
  Contributor: Grace Gaspardo
   Zulu Yes Claire Halpert