Q05_Polar question by V-fronting

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This property has the value 'yes' if, in a sentence containing just a main verb (no auxiliaries), the verb occurs in initial position in a neutral, information-seeking, direct polar question, but not in a declarative clause.

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

The value for this property is 'no' if:

  1. The verb is not initial in polar questions, or
  2. the verb is initial in both declaratives and polar questions (i.e. there is no change in word order)


  1. English has the value 'no' for this property, as the main verb cannot be initial to form a polar question.
    • Declarative: John speaks Arabic
      Question: *Speaks John Arabic?
  2. Moroccan Arabic has the value 'no' for this property. Neutral polar questions can have V as the initial constituent (which may or may not be preceded by a question particle) but V can also be initial in the corresponding declaratives. To form a question, an optional initial Q marker is added to the basic declarative order:
    • Declarative: žau d-dyaf  
        came the-guests  
        "The guests have come."
      Question: (waš) žau d-dyaf
        Q came the-guests
        "Have the guests come?"
  3. Finnish has the value 'yes' for this property, since neutral, information-seeking, direct polar questions have the V initial (followed by a question-particle) in sentences with a single verb and a lexical subject.
    • Declarative: Anna tuli kotiin
        Anna came home
        "Anna came home."
      Question: Tuli-ko Anna kotiin
        came-Q Anna home
        "Did Anna come home?"
  4. Swedish has the value 'yes' for this property since neutral, information-seeking, direct polar questions have the V initial in sentences with a single verb and a lexical subject.
    • Declarative: piloten talar franska
        pilot.D speaks French
        "The pilot speaks French."
      Question: talar piloten franska
        speaks pilot.D French
        "Does the pilot speak French?"
    • Comment: Swedish also has the value 'yes' for the property Q06_Polar question by Aux-fronting.
Contributed by: Anders Holmberg
Language Value Contributor Comments
   =Hoan No Chris Collins
+ Afrikaans Yes Theresa Biberauer
  Words: Lees jy baie boeke?
  Gloss: read you many book.PL
  Translation: Do you read a lot?
  Contributor: Theresa Biberauer
+ Albanian Yes Dalina Kallulli
  Words: Erdhi Beni?
  Gloss: came.3SG Ben.the(NOM,SG)
  Translation: Did Ben come?
  Contributor: Dalina Kallulli
   American Sign Language No Natasha Abner
   Amharic No Girma Demeke
   Ancient Greek No Richard Faure
   Arabic, Gulf No Dimitrios Ntelitheos
   Armenian (Eastern) Yes Sona Haroutyunian
   Bafut No Pius Tamanji
   Bambara No Hilda Koopman
   Bandial No Wolfgang Berndt
   Bardi No Claire Bowern
+ Basaa No Paul Roger Bassong
  Words: n-lɑ́mb-ɑ́ɣ w-ɔ́n mudɑ̀ɑ́ ɑ-n-lɑmb kón *(ɛ́)
  Gloss: NMLZ-cook-NMLZ 3-FOC woman SM-PST1-cook rice Q
  Translation: ‘Has the woman COOKED rice?’
  Comment: This property is yes in focus-verb constructions. But here again, a final question marker must appear.
  Contributor: Paul Roger Bassong
   Brazilian Portuguese No Ananda Lima
   Calabrian (Northern) No Giuseppina Silvestri
   Cantonese (Guangzhou) No Zixian Qiu
+ Catalan Yes Victoria Mateu
  Words: Beu café en Joan?
  Gloss: drink.PRES.3SG coffee the John
  Translation: Does John drink coffee?
  Comment: The declarative version would be 'En Joan beu café' ('John drinks coffee'))
  Contributor: Victoria Mateu
   Chickasaw No Pam Munro
   Cypriot Greek Yes Marios Andreou
+ Czech Yes Pavel Caha
  Words: Píše Petr dopis?
  Gloss: writes peter letter
  Translation: Is Peter writing the letter?
  Comment: compare ex in property 01_sv
  Contributor: Pavel Caha
   Danish Yes Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Dholuo No Hilda Koopman
   Dutch Yes Hilda Koopman
   English No Craig Sailor
   English (Singapore) No Adam Chong
   Faroese Yes Hjalmar Páll Petersen
   Farsi No Natasha Schimka
   Finnish Yes Anders Holmberg
+ French Yes Vincent Homer Only with subject clitics: Vient-il ? (comes he?); *vient Jean? (comes Jean?)
  Words: Parlez-vous francais?
  Gloss: Speak.PRS-2PL French
  Translation: “Do you speak French?”
  Comment: In order for this property to be valid, the subject must be a pronoun.
  Contributor: Hannah Kim
   Ga No Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu
   galician Yes Naír García
   Garifuna No Pam Munro
   georgian No Lea Nash
   German Yes Viola Schmitt
+ Greek Yes 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: The corresponding declarative sentence is allowed with both SV and VS order. The example involves either no fronting, or string-vacuous movement of the verb or movement across S. I conclude that V-fronting is involved based on the fact that SV orders do not form neutral polar question without V-fronting. (See comments in Q04_Polar questions with intonation)
  Contributor: Giorgos Spathas
   Greek (Cappadocian) No Metin Bagriacik
   Greek (Homer) No Chiara Bozzone
   Greek (Medieval) Yes Io Manolessou
   Guébie No Hannah Sande
   Gungbe (Porto-Novo) No Enoch Oladé Aboh
   Haitian No Michel DeGraff
   Hausa No Russell Schuh
   Hebrew No Ur Shlonsky
   Hebrew (Biblical) No Massimo Gargiulo
   Hindi No Anoop Mahajan
   Hittite No Mattyas Huggard
   Hungarian No Anna Szabolcsi
   Ibibio No Willie Willie
   Icelandic Yes Jim Wood
   Igbo No Mary Amaechi
   Iha No Mark Donohue
   imbabura quichua No UCLA Linguistics 210
   Indonesian No Mark Donohue
   Italian No Adriana Belletti
   Italian (Napoletano Antico) Yes Adam Ledgeway
   Italian (Reggiano) Yes Giovanni Roversi
   Jamaican Creole English No Stephanie Durrleman
   Japanese No Jun Yashima
   K'iche' No Pam Munro
   Kashaya No John Gluckman
   KiLega No Kasangati Kinyalolo
   Kinande No Patricia Schneider-Zioga and Philip Mutaka
   Kom No Richard Kwamong
   Korean No Grace Lee
   Kuot No Eva Lindström
   Kurdish (Sorani) No 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
   Maasai (Kisongo) No Hilda Koopman
   Mada No Bebey Théodore
   Malagasy No Ed Keenan and Laura Kalin
   Malayalam No Mythili Menon
   Mandarin No Arthur Wang
   Marshallese No Heather Willson Sturman
   Moroccan Arabic No Arwa Rangwala
   Muyang No Bebey Théodore
   Nahuatl (Central Huasteca) No John Garcia
   Nawdm No Hannah Kim
   Nepali No Mark Donohue
   Nkore-Kiga No Arwa Rangwala
   Northern Thai No Alif Silpachai
   Norwegian Yes Marit Julien
   Nupe No Jason Kandybowicz
   Nweh No Hilda Koopman
   Old English Yes ---
   Old French Yes Heather Burnett
   Old Norse Yes Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
+ Old Saxon Yes George Walkden There are seven examples of this in the Heliand.
  Words: bist thu than thoh Elias
  Gloss: are you then though Elias
  Translation: So are you Elijah?
  Comment: (Heliand 920)
  Contributor: George Walkden
  Words: uuêst thu that te uuâron
  Gloss: know you that to truth.DAT
  Translation: Do you truly know that?
  Comment: (Heliand 5350)
  Contributor: George Walkden
   Oluwanga (Eji) No Ceciliane Odangah
   panjabi No Gurprit Bains
   Pashto No David Pate
+ Polish Yes Barbara Tomaszewicz
  Words: Je Piotr zupę?
  Gloss: Eats Peter soup?
  Translation: Does Peter eat soup? / Is Peter eating soup?
  Comment: This is not a neutral question. It conveys surprise with a high pitch rise on 'zupę'. See the next example for a natural and wellformed V fronting question
  Contributor: Barbara Tomaszewicz
  Words: Czy napisał Piotr list matce? - Tak, napisał.
  Gloss: Q wrote Peter letter to-mother - yes, wrote
  Translation: Did Peter write a letter to his mother? Yes, he did.
  Comment: when a Q particle is included verb-fronting sounds very natural:
  Contributor: Barbara Tomaszewicz
   Portuguese No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Q'anjob'al No Kathleen O'Flynn
   Romanian Yes Monica Alexandrina Irimia
   Russian Yes Denis Paperno
   Samoan No Hilda Koopman
   San Dionisio Ocotepec Zapotec No George Aaron Broadwell
   Sandawe No Helen Eaton
   Shan No Alif Silpachai
   Shupamem No Abdoulaye Laziz Nchare
   Sicilian No Cristina Guardiano
   Skou No Mark Donohue
+ Spanish Yes Victoria Mateu
  Words: Bebe café Juan?
  Gloss: drink.PRES.3SG coffee the John
  Translation: Does John drink coffee?
  Comment: The declarative version would be 'Juan bebe café' ('John drinks coffee')
  Contributor: Victoria Mateu
   Swedish Yes fredrik heinat
   Tagalog No Edith Aldridge
   Taiwanese Southern Min No Arthur Wang
   Teramano No Iara Mantenuto
   Thai No Alif Silpachai
   Tommo-So No Laura McPherson
   Triqui, Copala No George Aaron Broadwell
   Tukang Besi No Mark Donohue
   Tuki (Tukombo) No Edmond Biloa
+ Tupi (Ancient) Yes Fabricio M. F. Gerardi Not common, but possible.
  Words: O-só-pe abá peró ygar-usu-pe?
  Gloss: 3.SG/PL.go(es)/went Q indian(s) portuguese boat big to
  Translation: Did/do the indian(s) go to the big boat (ship) of the portuguese?
  Contributor: Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Turkish No Deniz Ozyildiz
+ Twi No Cansada Martin
  Words: *Twaa Kofi brodo no (ana)?
  Gloss: cut.PST Kofi bread DET (Q)
  Contributor: Cansada Martin
   Vata No Hilda Koopman
   Vietnamese No Binh Ngo
+ West Flemish Yes Liliane Haegeman
  Words: Is Valère no Parys geweest?
  Gloss: be-pres-3sg Valère to Parys be-part
  Translation: 'Has Valère been to Parys?'
  Contributor: Liliane Haegeman
   Western Armenian No Hrayr Khanjian
   Wolof No Mariame Sy
   Wuhu Chinese No Zhuo Chen
   Xhosa No Xiujie Ma
   Yémba No Elsie Mawamba
   Yan-nhaŋu No Claire Bowern
   Zulu No Claire Halpert