Interrogatives of reason in Tibeto-Burman languages of Sichuan

Hongdi DING, Sicong DONG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


This is a typological study of the why-interrogative expressions in Tibeto-Burman languages, or the non-Chinese Sino-Tibetan languages, in Sichuan, southwest China. After examining 22 languages/dialects, the interrogative category of reason is grouped into three types, viz. the distinct why-type, the how-type, and the what-type, according to the interrogative categories from which they are derived. It is discovered that the what-type is the dominant strategy for languages in Sichuan to derive the reason category. It is also common for Tibeto-Burman languages to use verbal interrogatives, namely interrogative verb phrases and interrogative words with verbal origins, dominantly in the sense of 'to do what' and 'to become what', to ask for reason. After a focused investigation of the verbal interrogatives, it is found that Tibeto-Burman languages in Sichuan distinguish purpose from cause via word/phrase distinction, sentential positions and semantic differences. A path of grammaticalization of the verbal interrogatives is thus proposed and analyzed. Finally, the derivation maps of interrogatives in Cysouw (2005) and Hölzl (2018) are complemented with a refined distinction between purpose and cause. Copyright © 2024 ILAS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-233
JournalLanguage and Linguistics
Issue number2
Early online dateApr 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


Ding, H., & Dong, S. (2024). Interrogatives of reason in Tibeto-Burman languages of Sichuan. Language and Linguistics, 25(2), 187-233.


  • Interrogatives of reason
  • Verbal interrogatives
  • Tibeto-Burman languages
  • Purpose & cause
  • Typology


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