Conveying content questions without wh-words: evidence from Abaza


  • Peter Arkadiev
  • Ivano Caponigro



We argue that Abaza, a polysynthetic language from the Northwest Caucasian family, exhibits a syntax-semantics mapping that has not been observed in any other languages before. We show that Abaza lacks wh-words and, as a consequence, matrix and embedded wh- interrogative clauses, and conveys direct and indirect content question meaning by means of headless relative clauses. We propose a compositional semantic analysis of these headless relative clauses that assigns them the same meaning as concealed question DPs, i.e. individual concepts. When occurring as matrix clauses and conveying direct question meaning, these headless relative clauses require the relative verbal form to contain a clause typing affix from a specific set. We show that these affixes cannot be analyzed as “incorporated” or “cliticized” wh- words, but rather as operators turning individual concepts into questions, i.e., sets of propositions.




How to Cite

Arkadiev, P., & Caponigro, I. (2021). Conveying content questions without wh-words: evidence from Abaza. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 25, 73–94.