Plurality and distributivity in Yaeyaman wh-questions


  • Christopher Davis University of the Ryukyus



In Yaeyaman, a critically endangered Japonic language of the Southern Ryukyus, there is a distinction made between singular and plural wh-questions, with plurality indicated by reduplication of the indeterminate (wh) pronoun. I argue that reduplication of the indeterminate is triggered by a morpheme RED that requires the presence of non-atoms in the set of Hamblin alternatives denoted by its sister. When attached directly to an indeterminate pronoun, RED requires the presence of non-atomic, plural entities. I then show that reduplicated indeterminate subjects can be interpreted distributively in pair-list answers, while reduplicated indeterminate objects cannot. After showing that the distributive reading of the subject indeterminate cannot be modeled straightforwardly using a distributivizing operator attached to the VP, I suggest that it reflects morphological agreement between the subject indeterminate and a clause-level RED morpheme, which requires the existence of plural answers in the set of alternative propositions denoted by the question. The semantics of clause-level RED requires a distinction between atomic and plural answers that parallels the distinction between atomic and plural entities. I also compare the Yaeyaman data with reduplication in Korean questions, showing that the semantics of RED differs between the two languages.

Keywords: plurality, distributivity, indeterminates, wh-questions, pair-list answers, redupli- cation, Ryukyuan, Yaeyaman, Korean

Author Biography

  • Christopher Davis, University of the Ryukyus

    Associate Professor

    Faculty of Law and Letters