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A question word not existing in English

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 Language Learning Forum : Specific Languages Post Reply
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nicozerpa
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 Message 9 of 25
29 March 2014 at 4:04am | IP Logged 
This is the which time you ask this question, yong321? ;)

I think we can't make that kind of question in Spanish either. I tried to think on possible ways to say "which
time", but all of them sound extremely awkward to me. As for Italian, I haven't heard of any similar
construction, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if such word or expression doesn't exist, given the similarity
between Italian and Spanish.

Edited by nicozerpa on 29 March 2014 at 4:07am

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vonPeterhof
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 Message 10 of 25
29 March 2014 at 7:26am | IP Logged 
yong321 wrote:
Now I know Finnish, Russian, Marathi, as well as German and Chinese, have this question word.
The Russian example given by Serpent isn't really a unique question word, although it does perform the function you described. Какой (or который) по счету is a phrase that can be roughly translated as "which on the count" or "which by counting". Какой means "what kind" or "which", while который is specifically "which", so using them without по счету still leaves a bit of ambiguity.
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Serpent
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serpent-849.livejour
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 Message 11 of 25
29 March 2014 at 10:41am | IP Logged 
True, but I would say it's just an analytically formed question word, like "how many" in English. We can't say English lacks a question word for "how many" just because Russian or Finnish use single words here. (btw Finnish uses the same word again, but in a different case and without the ordinal ending)
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vonPeterhof
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 Message 12 of 25
29 March 2014 at 10:57am | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
True, but I would say it's just an analytically formed question word, like "how many" in English. We can't say English lacks a question word for "how many" just because Russian or Finnish use single words here. (btw Finnish uses the same word again, but in a different case and without the ordinal ending)
True. I guess I could nitpick that "how many" is also not a word but an interrogative phrase, but that would open the can of worms of how to define the term "word" in such a way that would work for cross-linguistic comparisons universally, and that would be too much of a deviation from the original topic.
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Ari
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 Message 13 of 25
29 March 2014 at 11:26am | IP Logged 
In Swedish you can use the construction "vilken gång i ordningen", literally "which time in the order" to ask this. It's a bit long, and in some circumstances it can sound awkward, but it sounds fine in others. You probably wouldn't ask "Vilken gång i ordningen är det du kommit till New York?" (which time in the order is it you've come to New York), but rather "Hur många gånger har du varit i New York?" (how many times have you been to New York). You would, however, say "Vilken bok i ordningen är det du läser?" (which book in the order is it you're reading), when talking about a book series, for example.
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montmorency
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 Message 14 of 25
29 March 2014 at 12:58pm | IP Logged 
yong321 wrote:
In English, there doesn't seem to be a proper question word that
specifically asks for the ordinal number of an item in a series. For example,

Q: This is which time you come to New York?
A: The second time.

Here "which time" is awkward, or not proper English at all.

Q: The teacher wants us to read John XYZ's all three books in the ABC series. Which
book are you on|reading now?
A1: I'm reading his "Book Title".
A2: I'm reading his second book.

Here the question is good, but both answers are valid; the question does not demand
answer A2 and reject A1.

This is not the case with Chinese where there's the question word "第几", or German in
which you can ask "wievielte" (see this discussion
http://dict.leo.org/forum/viewUnsolvedquery.php?idThread=157 627 Note there's no space
between 7 and 6; this forum web site added it).

What other languages can ask about the ordinal number?


I'd re-word the second question as:

"Which of the three books are you reading now?"

This could elicit either answer, but is more likely to result in "the second one", I
think.

By the way, you can avoid the "space problem" by using URL tags, then do a preview and
see if it's ok, and if not, you can make the input text box wider by dragging the
bottom right corner.
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ClaireB
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 Message 15 of 25
29 March 2014 at 1:02pm | IP Logged 
French would be "combientième", but it should only be used in informal speech :

"C'est la combientième fois que vous venez à New York ?"
"Tu lis le combientième de ses livres ?"

Wikipedia has just taught me that there is a formal version,"quantième", but I have never, ever heard anyone
use it, and
never used it myself. In my experience, it only shows up in legal documents, contracts and such      

Edited by ClaireB on 29 March 2014 at 1:03pm

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yong321
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 Message 16 of 25
29 March 2014 at 11:09pm | IP Logged 
Now I think we can have three groups of languages in terms of this capability: (1) a single word suffices; (2) a phrase is needed; (3) some logic is needed to deduce the ordinal number, or you ask in a different way, or there's not a general interrogative construct.

By the way, although I don't know Japanese, I think "何番目" in Japanese is the question word that serves the purpose. See http://japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/13416/how-do-you -ask-for-ordinality-order-in-a-sequence (using montmorency's suggestion on creating a URL tag)


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