Indefinite Pronouns (Feature 21)
There are two major ways in which languages express the nominal indefinite pronouns 'somebody' and 'something': (1) they may be closely related to the interrogative pronouns 'who' and 'what', (2) they may be closely related to the generic nouns 'person' and 'thing'.
Moreover, (3) there may be special expressions for 'somebody' and 'something', synchronically unrelated to anything else, and (4) languages may lack nominal indefinite pronouns entirely and express the equivalent of ‘someone’ and ‘something’ by means of an existential construction.
Languages may show a mixed pattern, e.g. when the words for ‘somebody’ and ‘something’ do not behave in the same way (e.g. ‘somebody’ is generic-noun-based, ‘something’ is interrogative-based, cf. German je-mand vs. et-was), or if there are several ways of saying ‘somebody/something’. In this case, several values should be selected.
Non-nominal indefinite pronouns such as ‘somewhere’ or ‘somehow’ also often behave similarly, but they should be ignored for the purposes of this feature.
|1||Interrogative-based indefinites||Modern Greek ká-pjos'somebody', pjos 'who'.If interrogatives and indefinites are identical, this also counts as value 1 (Chinuk Wawa íkta ‘what; something’).|
|2||Generic-noun-based indefinites||Santomense ũa nge [person one] ‘somebody’, ũa kwa [thing one] ‘something’; English some-body, some-thing; English some-one also counts as generic-noun-based, because the numeral one is used as a kind of noun here.|
|3||Special indefinites||Spanish alguien 'somebody', algo 'something' (not related to anything else synchronically)|
|4||Existential construction only|| No nominal expressions for 'somebody' and 'something'; instead, an existential construction plus free relative clause is used (”There exists what I ate” = “I ate something”). This is rare, but occurs e.g. in Philippine languages (e.g. Tagalog May dumating kahapon [exist actor.come.pfv yesterday] ‘Someone came yesterday (lit. There exists (one who) came).’ |
|5||Other||(Please give details in the “General comments” field.)|