Grammars usually distinguish three kinds of interrogative sentences: a) WH questions; b) alternative questions and 3) polar or 'yes/no' questions. The aim of this paper is to contribute to the analysis of the last two types in Basque.
Basque has two disjunctive conjunctions, EDO and ALA. EDO is the unmarked option, for many speakers exclusively use only this conjunction. Other speakers reserve the use of ALA for alternative questions.
Sometimes, alternative questions clearly present the appearance of a conjunction of two (or more) clauses. But a different structure is more common: instead of two coordinated clauses, only a single clause that includes a disjunctive coordinated phrase as a constituent. This phrase usually occupies the focus position in the sentence. Despite their apparently different structure, these 'simple', interrogative structures can be derived from an ellipted form of the two sentence disjunction. There are a lot of arguments for this analysis: certain verb agreement phenomena, as well as the special intonation of these 'simple' constructions, or certain facts concerning subordination, for example.
A similar source is proposed for yes/no questions. In Basque, there are two different ways to construct such yes/no interrogatives. In one case, a particle (AL or -A) is present in the sentence. In other cases, we simply apply the typical rising intonation to the declarative sentence. In the first case, it is possible to admit an empty yes/no operator. But for the second, we propose the same structure as that proposed for alternative interrogatives. The main arguments for this analysis refer both to syntax (constraints on embedding) and intonation.
In this way, a unified analysis is obtained for all alternative questions.
When the yes/no question is built on the AL particle, probably there would be no need for any sentence conjunction. In this case we would simply be dealing with a special use of AL, a modal element originally endowed with an optative value.
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