Interrogative pronouns

The syntax of interrogative phrases is explained in syntax.

The word “interrogative” refers to questions and all matters related to them. Interrogative pronouns, hence, are pronouns used in the formation of questions. However, this page also discusses other interrogative words in the Cenyani language, and, come to think of it, should probably be called “Interrogative words” instead.

Co [ko co who.NOM.SG
a a a are
te, te te you.SG
ó ó and
cacö ˈkakø cacö what.ACC.CC
táni ˈtaːni tan-i do-PRS
te te te you.SG
éytena ˈeːʝtena éyet-on-a house-DNOMSG-in
yaš? jaʃ] yaš my

“Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”


Cenyani has two true interrogative pronouns: co (“who”) and ca (“what”). They both inflect exactly identically for case, and they are both capable of showing number in their inflection. I honestly find myself having a hard time coming up with stuff to write here, because the interrogative pronouns are pretty much exactly like personal pronouns that ask questions.

The number of an interrogative pronoun is dependent on what is being asked about; normally, the conceptual number is used, and it typically implies an unspecific number. Singular and plural are only ever used to specify either a single entity or several: asking “What did you want?” with “what” in the singular would actually correspond to “Which [one] did you want?”, implying only a single thing was desired.

The interrogative pronouns inflect according to the table below.

sg. --c-t-r
pl. -i-ci-ti-ri-iš
cc. --cö-tö-rö

car and cari are always pronounced with an [a] rather than an [ɑ], and cacö is often shortened to simply if it is the very first word of the sentence.

In the genitive, interrogative pronouns behave exactly like personal pronouns; and when they are independent, they behave exactly like possessive pronouns. The interrogative pronouns can also be used as determiners, in which case only the base forms co and ca are used.

I think that’s pretty much all I have to say about the pronouns themselves. Interrogative phrases do have a slightly different word-order, but that is described in syntax.

Other interrogative words

As mentioned somewhere higher up on the page, there are other interrogative words in Cenyani alongside the interrogative pronouns, so I decided to be nice and list them all here. Or at least, I’ve included all those that come to mind at the moment; this table will get updated as I remember the several important words I have probably completely forgotten.

Time caum “when” (lit. “whattime”)
caset “when” – used when asking what year something happened, e.g. “When (what year) were you born?” or “What year did the Berlin wall fall?”
Location “where” (static)
cút “whither; where to”
cúro “whence; where from”
Reason/cause “why”
Purpose/intention ciragi “why” (lit. “why for”)
Method cindo “how”

The separation of reason and purpose is important to note: asking for the reason means you want to know the underlying cause of something – it asks what it was that prompted a particular behaviour or event to occur in the first place – whereas asking for the purpose means you want to know the intentions behind a behaviour or course of action.

Asking someone “Why is the window open?” with might yield the answer “Because I opened it”, whereas with ciragi, the answer would more likely be “Because it was too hot in here”. The former explains the underlying cause of the window’s openness – the person asked is responsible for opening it, and therefore caused it to be open – while the latter explains the reasoning behind opening the window – the room was too hot and a gentle draft was desired for its cooling effect, hence the window was opened.