Hi all.
A statement in English can be implied to be a question by speaking with a rising inflection. For example, "You are American.", versus "You are American?"
I know this can be done in French. I'm wondering whether this a feature of all languages universally, a little bit like the universal body language of nodding the head meaning yes.
Speakers of Zapotec, Xhosa, Bua, Erzya, and Ga may be able to help.

Stupot
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A statement in English can be implied to be a question by speaking with a rising inflection. For example, "You ... a feature of all languages universally, a little bit like the universal body language of nodding the head meaning yes.

In my experience, the Dutch don't like statement-as-question. If I do it absent-mindedly, they don't grasp I'm asking a question, unless I remember to add the tag "toch?" at the end, which fills in for "Isn't it, don't they, can't we," etc.
The standard form requires inverting the word order at the beginning. Sometimes that resembles English (Are you... Must I...) but more often not: "Goes it... Works he...).
By the way, I'm told that nodding the head is not "yes" in many places of the world, but I don't have a list.

Best Donna Richoux
Hi all. A statement in English can be implied to be a question by speaking with a rising inflection. For example, "You are American.", versus "You are American?"

I wonder how long this can last given the increasing prevalence of the rising inflection in a statement of fact.
Ida Goode-Johnson
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A statement in English can be implied to be a ... the universal body language of nodding the head meaning yes.

In my experience, the Dutch don't like statement-as-question. If I do it absent-mindedly, they don't grasp I'm asking a question, ... told that nodding the head is not "yes" in many places of the world, but I don't have a list.

Unca Cece is da Man:
http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2 450b.html
"The only place I know of where they completely reverse the meaning of our nod and head-shake gestures is Bulgaria. There a nod means no and a shake means yes. One shudders to think of the implications this has for cross-cultural dating in that country. The Turks are almost as confusing they say "yes" by shaking their heads from side to side, and "no" by tossing their heads back and clucking. Head-tossing for "no" is also common in Greece and parts of Italy, such as Naples, that were colonized or heavily influenced by Greeks in ancient times.

Still, cultures ranging from the Chinese to the natives of Guinea nod and shake their heads like we do, leading Darwin to believe that the gestures were innate to some extent. He noticed that when babies refused food they almost always turned their heads to the side, whereas when they had worked up an appetite they inclined their heads forward in a nodding gesture."

John Dean
Oxford
Stuart Chapman turpitued:
Hi all. A statement in English can be implied to be a question by speaking with a rising inflection. For ... a feature of all languages universally, a little bit like the universal body language of nodding the head meaning yes.

Neither the rising tone nor the head-nodding is universal. For counterexamples to the "rising inflection" hypothesis, just think of any tonal language, where a change in tone would change the word.

Just recently I was listening to some Singapore English speakers, and was interested to notice that a question was indicated not by a rising tone but by a final word "ma". That "ma" is a Chinese word which means approximately the same as the English question mark. (I'm not very good at picking up Chinese tones, but I think it's pronounced with a level tone. Certainly it's not rising.) It was quite a surprise to hear it as an import into English.

Peter Moylan peter at ee dot newcastle dot edu dot au http://eepjm.newcastle.edu.au (OS/2 and eCS information and software)
Just recently I was listening to some Singapore English speakers, and was interested to notice that a question was indicated ... a level tone. Certainly it's not rising.) It was quite a surprise to hear it as an import into English.

If I remember right, Esperanto has a word that signals a question, but it's placed at the beginning.
I think the word is pronounced "chew", but it's been a long time. ("Chew vee floogees" = "Did you fly?")
Anyway, it seems quite sensible to me to put the marker at the beginning instead of the end. It's nice to let the listener know a question is to be asked before it begins.

Come to think of it, the words "did you" at the beginning of an utterance signal that what follows is a question. Same with "have you", "can you", "could you", "can I", "should we", and probably many others. I wonder if that can be generalized to say that any verb followed by a substantive phrase at the beginning of an utterance invariably signals a question. (Is this suggestion acceptable?)
Counterexamples, anyone? Today's English only, please.
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Bob Cunningham turpitued:
If I remember right, Esperanto has a word that signals a question, but it's placed at the beginning. I think the word is pronounced "chew", but it's been a long time. ("Chew vee floogees" = "Did you fly?")

You do remember right. The word is "c^u" (little accent mark on top of the c), and literally it means "whether". If it starts the sentence then the combination "c^u vi ..." can almost always be translated as "do you ..." or "did you ..." or "will you ...", depending on the tense of the following verb.

The word is often rendered as "chu" or "cxu". There are different conventions for dealing with the fact that the Esperanto accented characters are not included in the character sets that most people use on their computers.
Anyway, it seems quite sensible to me to put the marker at the beginning instead of the end. It's nice to let the listener know a question is to be asked before it begins.

Agreed, but note that both English and Esperanto also use the rising tone at the end for a question. Perhaps this is related to the very sensible practice in Spanish of putting a question mark at both ends of the question.
In French, too, there has been a growing tendency to put question markers at the beginning of sentences. Older or more conservative textbooks will tell you that French uses inversion for questions, but in reality a different form. If you want to ask Frère Jacques whether he is sleeping you no longer say "Dormez-vous?" Nearly everyone would instead say "Est-ce que vous dormez?": literally "Is it that you are sleeping?" This is similar, in some ways, to the trend in English towards replacing inflected verbs by
auxiliary+infinitive. The more verbose version simplifies the parsing for both speaker and hearer.
I don't know enough about other languages to say whether this is a widespread trend, but I suspect that it might be.

Peter Moylan peter at ee dot newcastle dot edu dot au http://eepjm.newcastle.edu.au (OS/2 and eCS information and software)
Come to think of it, the words "did you" at the beginning of an utterance signal that what follows is ... at the beginning of an utterance invariably signals a question. (Is this suggestion acceptable?) Counterexamples, anyone? Today's English only, please.

So far, the only counterexample I can think of would be using 'Should we...', where 'Should we...' is replacing 'If we...'.

"Should we go by train instead of car, we will be late."

Stupot
Come to think of it, the words "did you" at ... (Is this suggestion acceptable?) Counterexamples, anyone? Today's English only, please.

So far, the only counterexample I can think of would be using 'Should we...', where 'Should we...' is replacing 'If we...'. "Should we go by train instead of car, we will be late." Stupot

And I must add, as I was composing the above post, 'should' was sounding less and less grammatical the more I thought of it.

Maybe its a case of a phrase archaicising / archaicizing.

Stupot
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