Questionable relatives

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In a number of languages, interrogative and relative pronouns show the same forms. The pattern is not distributed evenly around the globe, however: it is concentrated in Europe. It does appear elsewhere, for example in South America in Tariana (in contact with Portuguese), and in Mesoamerica in Nahuatl (in contact with Spanish). It also appears in North America, in Tuscarora, a Northern Iroquoian language. On the basis of centuries of documentation of European languages, Heine and Kuteva (2006) propose a recurring sequence of extensions which can result in such patterns. A marker begins in lexical gap questions (Who <i>came</i>&#63;). It is extended to indefinite subordinate clauses (<i>I don&#8217;t know </i>who<i> came</i>.). It is then generalized to definite subordinate clauses (<i>You also know </i>who<i> came</i>.), sometimes interpreted as headless relative clauses (<i>You know </i>the one who<i> came</i>.). Finally, it may be extended to headed relative clauses (<i>Do you know the woman </i>who<i> came&#63;</i>). Each of these developments could happen spontaneously, but contact could stimulate progress along the path.Comparisons of 19th century documentation of connected Tuscarora speech with that through the next century reveal the step-by-step development of all of the major interrogative pronouns along this trajectory. The pronouns did not all develop at the same rate, or in the same order as in German or English, but all have now progressed to use in headless relatives. The perfect coincidence of these Tuscarora developments with bilingualism in English adds evidence of the potential effect of contact in stimulating such evolution. Keywords: Interrogative pronouns; relative pronouns; contact; extension; headless relatives


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