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"Question Tags" they are important, aren't they?

You have words - now what do you do with them?

Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Feb 25, 2005 1:35 pm

I don't know squat about Chinese, but having learned around 900 kanji enables me to understand a lot of it. But I do dislike the simplified writing, which, not being familiar for me, is more complicated. We should abolish it and all the kanji lands would live happily for ever.

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Postby M. Henri Day » Fri Feb 25, 2005 3:17 pm

I don't know, BD, but orthographical reform seems to be nearly as inevitable a process in languages lacking a phonetic representation as in those that possess one. In the case of the 漢字 (汉字), it's been going on for some 4000 years, and I doubt that we are in a position to stop it. The problem is that the East Asian nations who employ these marvellous graphs are unable to agree among themselves as to how to proceed, and each pursues its own course in dealing with the common heritage. But then again, the orthographies employed by the Swedes, the Danes, and the Norwegians - not to mention those used by the Brits and the Yanks - aren't precisely identical, either....

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Postby anders » Fri Feb 25, 2005 6:21 pm

And don't forget, BD, that some "simplified" characters are much older forms than the "unsimplified" ones, and/or derived from age-old very common handwriting forms (can't think of any examples now, though). Even Japanese isn't immune to simplifications: 画 from 畵 etc.
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Postby anders » Sat Feb 26, 2005 7:34 am

Henri
Chinese exhibits an intriguing flexibility as regards the interrrogative ... In classical Chinese, special negative particles, like 非

Not less fascinating than the many ways of posing a question is the abundance of negations.

"I have a list" of them, constantly increasing. For example, 非 is still alive (although, as you see, written slightly differently on the mainland).

<edit> Why is my 'fei' displayed in the old form and not the way I wrote it?
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sat Feb 26, 2005 3:04 pm

anders wrote:...

<edit> Why is my 'fei' displayed in the old form and not the way I wrote it?

Man proposes, software disposes....

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Postby Brazilian dude » Sat Feb 26, 2005 3:33 pm

畵? Oh, so that's what my kanji dictionary means when it puts another kanji in brackets? I didn't know that. Thanks!

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Postby Flaminius » Sat Feb 26, 2005 7:34 pm

BD, if you read novels on blood and gore of samurais, you will find bracketted reference to those kanjis very helpful.
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Postby Verbum » Thu Mar 03, 2005 1:07 pm

Can a "tag" be at the beginning? In French, you can turn any statement into a question, if you begin with "est-ce que" : "Est-ce que le gouvernement devrait baisser les impôts lorsqu'il est engagé dans une guerre qui luli coûte un milliard par jour ?"

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Postby anders » Thu Mar 03, 2005 1:16 pm

Arabic has at least two possibilities: An a- prefix to the first word, and the initial word Hal ... ?

A-antum ... or Hal antum ... "Do you ..."
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Postby Brazilian dude » Thu Mar 03, 2005 2:42 pm

I don't see est-ce que as a tag question. Est-ce que simply turns a statement into a question (either that or inverting verb and subject, or in colloquial French, keeping the same word order but varying intonation), it doesn't ask for a confirmation.

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Postby sluggo » Thu Apr 13, 2006 4:37 pm

Garzo wrote:Asking questions is one thing: tag questions are something else, aren't they?

I think the idea is a discourse marker. We use tag questions because we make a statement and wish to ellicit a response from someone, don't we?


And then there's the inverted syntax of "Going to the show, are you?"* to which I and my siblings always like to respond, "Put your auxillary verbs at the end of your sentences, do you?"
*where the end has equal emphasis, not to be confused with the more confrontational form "so that's it, is it?"
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Postby anders » Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:35 am

English tags feel very strange to me. The positive aspect is that I'm pretty sensitive to and pick up (dis)similar things in other languages. I have already mentioned two Arabic ways. Then there's the subtleties of Chinese questions ending in the particle ma, more often than not translated as "?". And its varieties me (almost the same thing, I hope), and the intriguing final ne, "for questions on a subject under consideration".

If tags are used in Swedish, there's the va?!, easily understood as rude, impertinent, incredulously questioning the sanity of the person prompting that answer etc. or the more socially acceptable väl?, just hinting at a slight degree of doubt but generally suggesting agreement.

In most cases, intonation will suffice for us.
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Postby Perry » Sat Apr 15, 2006 12:29 am

Garzo wrote:Asking questions is one thing: tag questions are something else, aren't they?

I think the idea is a discourse marker. We use tag questions because we make a statement and wish to ellicit a response from someone, don't we?

It is interesting to look at when we use a negative tag (isn't it?), and when we use a positive one (is it?). The verbs we can use in English to make tag questions have to be capable of being operators: be, have, do, can/could, may/might, must, shall/should, will/would, dare, need and ought. The choice of verb is based on that used in the statement. If none of these is used in the statement, then do has to, well...do!


But are they smooth operators, or aren't they?
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