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30 March 2010 @ 09:09 pm
A question for linguists, about language formation in children, sort of  
In Mercedes Lackey's and James Mallory's two trilogies (Obsidian Chronicles and The Enduring Flame), the Elves do not ask direct questions and rarely make direct requests, except under the most pressing circumstances, known as "war manners". Everything is phrased obliquely, so, for example, "Who is riding in the party approaching the city?" might become, "It would be good hearing to know, of your courtesy, if you had seen which riders are approaching".

Children are not expected to have learned proper manners, though, and do ask questions. "Are you a human? Why are you dressed like that? Are you going to stay here?"

But it occurs to me -- if the children never hear questions, how would they learn how to form questions?
Johnjohnpalmer on March 31st, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
Well... that might be a big hole in the world building.

But it might also be that children (maybe just one's own children) are normally asked questions, whether as part of baby talk ("Who's my big (girl/boy)?") or teaching ("did you remember to wash your hands?").

I think that if humans tried to emulate something like this, it would be very much a conscious, careful choice so that it's obvious how one *could* ask a question - but one just doesn't do that.