‘Where’ Questions and Their Responses in Duna (Papua New Guinea)

Lila San Roque 1
  • 1 Radboud University Nijmegen and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics


Despite their central role in question formation, content interrogatives in spontaneous conversation remain relatively under-explored cross-linguistically. This paper outlines the structure of ‘where’ expressions in Duna, a language spoken in Papua New Guinea, and examines where-questions in a small Duna data set in terms of their frequency, function, and the responses they elicit. Questions that ask ‘where?’ have been identified as a useful tool in studying the language of space and place, and, in the Duna case and elsewhere, show high frequency and functional flexibility. Although where-questions formulate place as an information gap, they are not always answered through direct reference to canonical places. While some question types may be especially “socially costly” (Levinson 2012), asking ‘where’ perhaps provides a relatively innocuous way of bringing a particular event or situation into focus.

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