How do we form questions in Isian and Ardari? The answer, you will see, is quite simple.
Isian, fittingly, doesn’t have a lot of question “morphology”. Yes-no questions are made in the simplest possible manner, by nothing more than rising intonation. This means, however, that the meaning of, say, so il til can be one of two things. With falling or level pitch, it’s a statement “you are there”. Go up in pitch as you near the end, and it becomes so il til?, the interrogative “are you there?”
The answer to such questions will usually be a simple sha “yes” or num “no”. If you need more, Isian allows you to add it by repeating the verb: sha, en “yes, I am”. (Note that I’m using English punctuation as a convenience, but also because there would be a slight pause between answer word and verb.)
If you prefer the vernacular, you’ve got shasha, which is more like “yeah”; noy is the negative counterpart, and its best translation might be “nope”. A wishy-washy reply would be momay “maybe”, while genuine ignorance can also be expressed by ekh “I don’t know”.
Negation in Isian is accomplished with the adverb an, as you’ll recall, and this extends neatly into the realm of the question. We can just as easily ask so an il til? “aren’t you there?” We don’t have to worry about double negatives, though; proper responses would be sha, en or num, an en.
Isian even gives you a couple of tags. These are highly discouraged in formal speech or writing, but common among friends and family. The one that concerns us most is ey, which works like English “isn’t it” and friends: so il til, ey? thus means something more like “you’re there, aren’t you?”
For the more general wh-questions, we have a family of fronted interrogatives:
- con “who” (only used for people)
- cal “what” (never used for people)
- cazal “where”
- carec “when”
- canyo “why”
- cadro “how”
These go at the front of a sentence, which is otherwise unchanged, except for a bit of rising intonation at the end. An example of each might be:
- con so il? “who are you?”
- cal to e? “what was that?”
- cazal so wasal? “where are you going?”
- carec is cosa? “when did they come?”
- canyo so kil to “why do you say that?”
- cadro so il “how are you?”
The more formal a situation, the more answer is required. Common speech can get away with single-word answers, but writing might need whole sentences. The rules are broadly similar to those in English, but Isian is overall more relaxed.
Ardari’s interrogatives are built around the particle qö, which begins all questions. For yes-no questions, it’s all you need, other than the requisite intonation: qö sy pren èllè? “are you there?”
Valid responses will start with è “yes” or kyu “no”, usually repeating the verb in more formal speech and writing. Thus, there is a distinction between è “yes” and è èllo “yes, I am” in Ardari.
The same particles, when placed at the end of a sentence, can also function as tags expressing an expected reply. In these cases, the question particle isn’t needed, only the intonation: sy pren èllè, kyu? “you’re there, aren’t you?”
For wh-questions, the basic premise remains the same. The particle qö goes at the beginning of the sentence, but the question word stays where it is. As for the question words themselves, Ardari has eight of them, shown here with examples:
- qom “what”: qö qom pralman èlla? “what was that?”
- qomban “who”: qö sy qombane èllè? “who are you?” (lit. “you are whom?”)
- qomren “where”: qö sy qomren chinès? “where are you going?”
- qomlajch “when”: qö ajo qomlajch toned? “when did they come?”
- qoman “which”: qö sy qomane lyebè? “which do you like?”
- qabre “how”: qö ysar zalman qabre troded? “how did they know that?”
- qömjas “how many”: qö a qömjasòn byzrell perada? “how many books does he have?”
- quld “why”: qö ti quld ajnadyt? “why was she crying?”
Of these eight, qom, qomban, and qomren inflect like neuter nouns, while qoman and qönjas act like neuter adjectives. The rest function as adverbs. In all cases, if they would be the first word in a sentence, Ardari allows you to omit the initial qö, as it’s subsumed into the question word itself. (They’re all derived from it, in case you hadn’t noticed.)
Answering these questions requires only the bare minimum. Ardari is very lenient on how you reply, and even in formal situations you can get away with a response of only a word or two. For instance, qö sy qomren chinès? above can be answered with just mynin tyèk “my house”. Even inflections can be largely ignored in this form, though you’ll need them for an extended answer: my mynin tyèke lim chinos.
One added wrinkle involves single-word answers of pronouns. In this case, Ardari uses the vocative, which otherwise doesn’t appear often. Thus, qö sy qombane èllè? can be answered with myne “Me!” Simple my, on the other hand, would be ungrammatical.
I know the question you might be asking right now. “What’s in the next part?” The truth is, I don’t know yet. I’m thinking about taking a bit of a diversion into more general conlanging issues. We’ll get back to the step-by-step guide to making languages a little bit down the road. Whatever I decide, I’ll see you next week.