In Malay, there are quite a few words and particles that can affix or modify both heads and phrases. The interrogative suffix -kah is one of them.

-Kah affixing heads

Tidak-kah sakit   kecederaan itu?            NEG
NEG  -Q   painful wound      DIST
Isn't that wound painful?

Dia  makan-kah ayam?                         V
3.SG eat  -Q   chicken?
Does he eat chicken?

-Kah affixing phrases

[Orang  yang mabuk]-kah yang kamu benci?    DP
[Person COMP drunk]-Q   COMP 2.SG hate
Is it drunk people whom you hate?

Dia  berjalan-jalan [di Kuala Lumpur]-kah?  PP
3.SG wander         [in Kuala Lumpur]-Q?
Is he wandering in Kuala Lumpur?

My question is this:

Is there an attested syntactic projection specified for constiutents like this - something like a particle phrase or something? I reckon that the answer has to do with a projection, not in a syntactic tree, but in a morphological tree, since affixes are morphological rather than syntactic and head affixation is involved.

One thing though - certain words can also be as ubiquitous as this interrogative particle, modifying both heads and phrases. The word juga, which means too can also modify heads.

Juga modifying heads

Dia  tidak juga terasa sakit                NEG
3.SG NEG   JUGA feel   pain
He didn't really feel any pain

Dia  makan juga ayam                        V
3.SG eat   JUGA chicken
He does eat chicken

Juga modifying a phrase

[Orang  yang mabuk] juga ada  perasaan     DP
[Person COMP drunk] JUGA have feeling
Drunk people too have feelings

[Di sana]  juga kawasan berhantu           PP
[At there] JUGA area    haunted
There too is a haunted area

Juga is an adverbial and is a free morpheme. It can't be the case that it occupies a projection at the morphological level, could it? Syntactically, it should occupy an adjunct projection, but what I can't figure out is what kind of projection it should be since adverbs modify VPs, APs, and whole clauses, and juga can even modify DPs and PPs and heads like NEG and V. This is somewhat similar tot he question I raised about the adverb also in English: The Syntax of 'Only'

  • Interesting! It seems that the -kah sits next to its scope, and so does juga, although I don't understand the (last) chicken example. The overt position of these guys is probably a PF phenomenon. Or else they can be associated with focus projections, where their scope moves -- but I don't know anything about focus in Malay, unfortunately. Oct 22, 2015 at 9:28
  • @IvanKapitonov They certainly do have to do with focus. Since they seem to be PF phenomena, I'm starting to think of analysis along the lines of late insertion from Distributed Morphology. Since literature on Malay/Indonesian linguistics is scarce, I can't find anything I can use to help me analyse this. Can you tell me more about the focus projections you speak of? Juga modifying the verb in the chicken example is something like "he does too eat chicken". Oct 22, 2015 at 9:37
  • 1. I had a cartographic focus in mind, which is a functional projection (often above the vP) that tries to capture dedicated focal positions in a sentence (such as the preverbal focus in Hungarian). Now I don't think that this head should be necessarily tied to a particular position. The relevant constituent would move into its Spec for focus. (I will try to think about a reference). 2. I'm not sure that specifically Late Insertion will help, but something in DM's Morphology component might help indeed. 3. Actually, do you think dia makan could be a phonological word? Oct 22, 2015 at 12:59
  • There is considerable confusion in English about what things are words and what things are phrases. Single word subjects are phrases, e.g., and the "single word subjects" at the beginning of this sentence is written with spaces, though it is a compound word. How do you know that the things you've called phrases are really phrases, and the things you call words are really words?
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 22, 2015 at 16:56
  • @GregLee: Because "eat chicken" is presumably a VP, at least unless we have evidence for the contrary. And "eat" should be it's head. Oct 22, 2015 at 23:17


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