Table of Contents
Yes-no questions (also called “polar questions”) are formed by adding the particle ka at the end of the correspond statements.
Ya ga lai. – He/She will come.
Ya ga lai ka? – Will he/she come?
Ti no li fa it. – You didn’t do it.
Ti no li fa it ka? – Didn’t you do it?
The answer to such question typically consists in, or starts with, either xi, which means ‘yes’ in this context, or with no ‘no’ – hence the name.
As in English and many other languages, the pitch of one’s voice often rises at the end of questions. However, this is not required, and a rising pitch alone is never sufficient to turn a statement into a question – instead, ka or one of the question words covered below is used for this purpose.
Asking about alternatives
Ka is also used when asking about alternatives, which are typically specified as a list, using au ‘or’ between the last two elements.
Ti yau kofi au cai ka? – Do you want coffee or tea?
In such cases, the answer frequently specifies one of the alternatives.
Kofi, ku jenti. – Coffee, please.
Content questions (also called “open questions” or, in English, “wh-questions”) ask for some specific information. In Lugamun, such questions typically include one of the following question words:
ke – what, who, whom
ke jen – who, whom
ke ples – where
ke tem – when
ke xos – what
por ke – why
kam – how much, how many, how (degree)
kes – whose
kese – how
(XXX Complete list.)
These question words are usually placed in the position where the corresponding word would occur in non-question sentences. In contrast to English, they are not moved to the front of the sentence (WALS 93; APiCS 12). XXX Maybe revise this to allow either placement? (If the object is fronted, the may mean that o is then required – or maybe leave it optional in this case too.)
Ti li miru ke jen? – Whom did you see?
Mi li miru Tina. – I saw Tina.
Ke by itself is mostly used to ask about things (‘what?’), but it can also be used to ask about people (‘who, whom?’) if the context is clear.
Ke (jen) ga [volunteer]? – Who’ll volunteer?
In this example, jen can be omitted, since only people volunteer. But if you want to ask ‘Who’ll fix this?’, you should better say Ke jen ga [fix/repair] si?, since Ke ga [fix/repair] si? would likely be understood as ‘What’ll fix this?’
The expression ke xos ‘what’ can be used if you want to be very explicit about asking about a thing (or things) rather than about a person. But it’s rarely needed, since ke alone is generally fine.
Kam is used to ask about quantities.
Kam kulin [remain]? – How much food is left?
Kam jen li lai? – How many people came?
Ti [practice] kam? – How much do you practice?
Ti [practice] kam kai? – How often do you practice?
Kes is used to ask about a possessive relationship (in a very wide sense).
Si xi kes ruma? – Whose house is this?
Tina xi kes nubet? – Tina is whose daughter? / Whose daughter is Tina?
XXX Examples for kese ‘how’ (in what manner, in what state, in which way):
… – How did you find me?
… – She showed her friend how to do it.
… – I remember well how I first met her/him. (used as conjunction)
Note: kes is derived from ke using the -s suffix that’s also used to form the possessive forms of pronouns ending in a vowel, such as mis from mi. Kese, on the other hand, is an independent root that just happens to start with the same syllable (not totally by accident, since all fundamental question words start with k).
XXX Explain how to express ‘which’ (ke de le, if needed).
Questions can be embedded within other clauses. Content questions are embedded without any changes (except by adjusting pronouns as needed).
Nas no xvo yexo a unotra nas xi ke jen. – We haven’t yet told each other who we are.
In the case of questions ending in ka, that final particle is dropped and the embedded question is instead introduced with se ‘if, whether’.
Mi konside se tum bisa fa it. – I wonder whether you can do it.
Ya li ven mi se mi yau kofi au cai. – He/She asked me whether I wanted coffee or tea.