Answers to Polarity Questions : A Typological Study

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för lingvistik

Abstract: Polarity questions, i.e. questions that demand as an answer either an affirmation or a denial (e.g. yes or no), are considered to be an universal language feature. Different strategies to answer polarity questions have been observed across languages. Sadock & Zwicky (1985) identified three systems of answer strategies: yes/no systems, agree/disagree systems and echosystems. Other studies have attested languages exhibiting a mix of these types (i.a. Floydet al. 2016, Holmberg 2016). Sadock & Zwicky (1985) do not offer any statements about the frequency distribution of the language systems, nor do they explain what kind of sample was used for their analysis. The aim of this study is to fill this gap. Specifically, the goals are to investigate the validity of the typology offered in Sadock & Zwicky (1985) and to establish some estimates about the cross-linguistic frequency of the types identified during this investigation. The data are collected through consultation of reference grammars and elicitation by means of a questionnaire.

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