Rhetorical Questions in Papuan Malay, Other Malayic Languages, and the Papuan Languages of West Papua

Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. 2018;11(2):86-117


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Journal Title: Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society

ISSN: 1836-6821 (Online)

Publisher: University of Hawaii Press

Society/Institution: Southeast Asian Linguistics Society

LCC Subject Category: Language and Literature: Languages and literature of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF



Angela Kluge (SIL International)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 15 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

This paper presents a descriptive and typological study of rhetorical questions. The first part describes the form and functions of rhetorical questions in Papuan Malay. There are no formal characteristics that mark Papuan Malay rhetorical questions. Instead, the context indicates whether a question has rhetorical functions. Typically, Papuan Malay rhetorical questions have social functions as pseudo questions, while their discourse-stimulating uses as stimulus questions are marginal. Pseudo questions are used to convey assertions, expressions of incertitude and negative evaluations. The speakersï¾’ underlying emotions tend to be negative. The second part of this paper investigates typological aspects of rhetorical questions in Malayic languages, as well as other Austronesian and Papuan languages in West Papua. Three patterns emerge which are submitted as testable hypotheses for further studies on rhetorical questions: (1) rhetorical questions tend to have social functions; (2) speakers do not use them to convey positive evaluations; and (3) rhetorical questions tend to carry underlying negative emotions. For Papuan Malay, at least, all three patterns apply.