@sir christophe

yes, my psychological observations tell me that
tail-interrogation like raising voice is more of a psychological
raising voice is  -- exaggerated formulated -- a sign of danger and
people and me feel unpleasent with this common way of interrogation.
some dodge this with introducing their question "tell me..." or "my
question is.."
and its much more agreeable and less annoying.

you state: the head of a sentence is the most important part and i
agree. thats the principle: importance comes first.
but i cant agree to the argument about the unwitting miss of the first
words of a sentence.
why ?
it contradicts your first statement.
when people tend to miss the "head", but still place important words
at the head, then the miss is abviously not relevant.

emphasing a word is not only possible with intonation but also with
syntax change.

do you drink coffee ? ( yes or no ? )
coffee, you drink ?  ( and not tea ?? )

and this is imho a much more efficient way of empasement because
a) its not bound to spoken speech, which intonation is.
b) it needs no "special" stress-markers.
plain and simple.

and this leads to the conclusion that a fixed syntax order
is in general not optimum.
to proove that SOV or OVS is more natural is a mistake since
you can value wether subjects, or objects, or adjectives are the most
important kinds of word
but you oversee that in concrete sentences an object CAN be more
important then a subject. it depends.
and therefore this dependance favours a free syntax.

so far ,
regards c.s.

CG> (sorry, should have been sent to the whole list)

CG> En réponse à claudio <[log in to unmask]>:

>> head-interrogation or tail-interrogation? what is more natural ?

CG> As you said, Chinese (but also Japanese with the particle ka) mark questions
CG> through final particles. When it's yes/no questions, this marker is the only
CG> one
CG> to mark questions (along with the raising of intonation). When it's another
CG> kind
CG> of questions, the marker is accompanied with interrogative words (like in
CG> Japanese dare: who, doko: where, itsu: when, naze: why, etc...) which stay in
CG> their natural place in the sentence (they are not fronted like in Indo-European
CG> languages). So these languages seem to like tail-interrogation.

CG> On the other hand, if you look at Latin, it had an interrogation marker for
CG> yes/no questions: num, which had to be placed first in the question. It could
CG> also ask questions about specific things with the suffix -ne, but usually the
CG> word bearing the suffix had to be fronted. Finally it also had interrogative
CG> pronouns, adjectives and adverbs that were always first in the sentence. I
CG> think
CG> Polish also has a marker for yes/no questions that appears in front of those
CG> sentences (like the Esperanto cxu, for that matter). Also, Spoken French has
CG> evolved a marker for yes/no questions: "est-ce que" which is always first in
CG> the
CG> sentence. Finally, English, French, German, and most of the European languages
CG> front their interrogative words (who, qui, wer, où, when, wo, etc...). All this
CG> shows a preference for head-interrogation. Still, those languages all have this
CG> raising intonation so characteristic of questions, which shows that still the
CG> tail is a nice place for the interrogation.

CG> So what's going on? I think there are various processes at work there:

CG> 1. A sentence has usually two particular spots: its beginning and its end.
CG> Things that need to be highlighted (topic, focus, and so interrogative marks)
CG> are usually moved to one place or another, the beginning of the sentence being
CG> the most important one. This is quite in agreement with the observations I told
CG> you.

CG> 2. When you get the attention of someone, it takes usually a few seconds to the
CG> person to realize that you were talking to him/her, and usually this person has
CG> missed the first word(s) you said. This means that the front place of a
CG> sentence
CG> is quite likely to be skipped by a not attentive listener, and thus, when you
CG> ask a question, you want the person to understand at once that it was a
CG> question
CG> and thus the final place of the sentence becomes more important. Thus the
CG> reason
CG> for the raising intonation and the final particles of Eastern languages. It
CG> would also explain why Spoken French uses such a long phrase "est-ce que" to
CG> introduce a question: by its length, even if it is skipped away by the
CG> listener,
CG> he won't have lost the main part of the question, and will be reminded that it
CG> was a question through the raising intonation. thus such a long introductory
CG> phrase would be there to optimize the flow of information.

CG> As you see, those two principles are contradictory, which explains why some
CG> languages focus on the head for questions, whiles others focus on the tail.
CG> Still, the presence of this intonation pattern, and things like the French
CG> introductory phrase for sentences let me think that the second process is more
CG> important, and explains why even in languages that introduce their questions
CG> with something at its beginning, the end is always marked in a way or another,
CG> even if it's only by intonation.

CG> Christophe.