Question particles: Thai, Japanese and English

Laura Bailey


This article focuses on polar question particles in Thai and Japanese: both languages have a sentence-final polar question particle (m and ka respectively). The two languages show considerable similarity in their question-forming strategy; however, differences arise in terms of the type of question in which the particle can occur. I argue that the question particle in each case originates from a disjunctive clause, but, in Thai, the particle retains its disjunctive character, whereas in Japanese it has progressed to a true question particle. The analysis has prediction potential for English, where similar question particles may arise. English does not have polar question particles, but it does have a large number of final discourse particles, as well as what looks like a final disjunction exhibiting some question particle properties. I suggest that, while this is not a final question particle, if it ever were to become one it would be on the model of Thai rather than Japanese. The potential for this development into a question particle to occur, however, depends upon a trigger experience, which at present is absent. Reanalysis has therefore not taken place.


polar questions, question particles, English, Japanese, Thai

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