Interrogatives of Liangshan Yi

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This paper describes the interrogative system of Liangshan Yi, a Loloish language spoken in Southwest China, by investigating its two major dialects: Nuosu and Niesu. Ten interrogative categories are addressed, including ‘who’, ‘which’, ‘what’, ‘how many/much’, ‘what kind’, ‘how’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘for what’ and ‘why’. The following syntactic categories are revealed for the basic functions of the interrogatives: person ‘who’, thing ‘what’, place ‘where’ and time ‘when’ are all nouns, selection ‘which’ is an adjective, quantity ‘how many/much’ is a numeral, manner ‘how’ is a verb, kind ‘what kind’ is a verb phrase, purpose ‘for what’ is a verb phrase, and cause ‘why’ is a verb. Both purpose and cause interrogatives are based on the meaning ‘to do what’. All interrogatives have the same syntactic categories in Niesu and Nuosu. Both Niesu and Nuosu distinguish purpose from cause by using word/ phrase distinction and positional differences in sentences. The grammaticalization of the verb phrase ‘to do what’ into the cause interrogative is facilitated by three structural conditions of Liangshan Yi. Moreover, the (proto-)which-word and the what-word are the basis for most of the interrogatives in Liangshan Yi. However, the derivation between which and how is no longer visible in Nuosu, while this connection is still clear in Niesu. Three crossover functions are described: asking for ‘why’ with ‘how’, asking for ‘why’ with ‘what’, and asking for ‘how’ with ‘where’; the word classes of the interrogatives may also change due to the functional changes. Finally, the non-interrogative functions of the interrogatives are discussed, including indefinites, intensification of a state, and exclamation. Copyright © 2022 John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-150
JournalLinguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


Ding, H. (2022). Interrogatives of Liangshan Yi. Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 45(1), 110-150. doi: 10.1075/ltba.21007.din


  • Interrogatives
  • Liangshan Yi
  • Niesu
  • Nuosu
  • Tibeto-Burman


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