This project’s aim is to address the following question: What diachronic pathways lead to the development of question/interrogative particles? This question informs, and is informed by, two more synchronically oriented questions: a) What range of functions can question/interrogative particles have? and b) Is there a dedicated syntactic position (or more than one) for question/interrogative particles?
As regards subquestion a), we are especially interested in whether subtypes of questions/interrogatives (e.g., repeated, rhetorical) are systematically characterized by dedicated particles, and if so, which ones. As for b), dedicated positions are predicted (broadly) by the cartographic approach to syntax, and the relationship between particles and word order (e.g., verb position in particular, among European languages). The core diachronic question is informed by the functional-typological and grammaticalization literature on semantic maps. In addition, since such maps are not inherently explanatory, we aim to seek explanations for the trajectories we find in terms of causal (syntactic, semantic, pragmatic) theories of grammaticalization.
Methodologically the project is split into two parts. One is typological and aims to establish, in broad-brush terms, the functions and sources of interrogative particles for as many languages as possible. The other core strand will be based on detailed corpus-based case studies of the diachronies of specific languages and language families, including Chinese, Germanic, Indo-Aryan, and Romance.