Naãn as a Tag Question and a Discourse Marker in Hindi-Urdu

  • Madelaine O'Reilly-Brown McGill University

Abstract

This study investigates the Hindi-Urdu particle naãn, which is ubiquitous in casual speech, but whose exact contribution has not been satisfactorily described. While some instances of naãn contribute an interrogative meaning, others are incompatible with one - raising the question of whether naãn is even a single lexical item. Following the diagnostic tests for biased questions developed in Farkas and Roelofson (2017) and Goodhue (2018), as well as the investigation into German discourse markers in Kaufmann and Kaufmann (2012), this paper proposes that naãn should, in fact, be analyzed as two separate lexical items, naãn1 and naãn2. This investigation reveals that naãn1 appears exclusively in clause-final position, and contributes a meaning very similar to English reversed-polarity tag questions (questions like you're going, aren't you?), where a declarative sentence anchor is followed by a tag with the opposite polarity of the anchor), while naãn2 appears clause-medially or after imperative verbs, is incompatible with an interrogative interpretation, and behaves similarly to the unstressed form of the German discourse marker doch, with the additional ability to contribute contrastive topicalization.
Published
2022-01-24