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Hva: (what4)

The word hvad ’what’ in written Danish covers at least four different forms with various functions in Danish talk-in-interaction. One of these forms is hva:.

The elongated hva: [væ:] is used in the beginning of an utterance to mark the beginning of a question and is therefore not the same as the interrogative pronoun hva. It seems that hva: most often is used to initiate yes/no-questions and in those cases, the performed action will be a request for confirmation. That is the case in the example below where Bjarne has just called Pelle to hear how far along he is with his cooking:

AULing | DTKOK | 18 ((telefon))

01   B:     hva:  har  i   gang   i  kokkeriet↘
            what4 have 2PL motion in the.chefery
            'hva: have you got the cooking going'
02   P:     æ:h jeg ved  ikk ø:h hhhh m vi kommer   nok >først
            eh  1SG know not eh         we come.PRS PTC  first
03          ti' å   spise< klokken otte  ↓jo
            PTC INF eat    clock   eight PTC

The excerpt comes right after the opening sequence in a telephone conversation. Line 01 is a yes/no-interrogative question which initiates conversation about a topic, which has not been touched upon previously. We will not exclude the possibility that hva: can also be used to initiate questions other than yes/no-questions, however we have only seen yes/no-questions in our data so far.

Hva: possibly expresses some hesitation from the speaker and can in this way be related to the the hesitation marker øh(m).


Sources and further reading

Brøcker et al. (2012) A thorough run-through of four phenomena in Danish talk in interaction, including the spoken language’ different variations of the written language hvad.

Hansen og Heltoft (2011: 606). The big work on Danish grammar. On page 606 some of the functions of hvad are described, also in the spoken language, though still insufficient in comparison to the description on this website.

Jørgensen (2015). ). A more elaborate description of the different variants of hvad in spoken language.

Jørgensen (2011b). Short, popular scientific article on sprogmuseet.dk on the four spoken language variants of hvad.

Related entries

Forms > Word ClassesInterjections and particles

Functions > Actions > Questions and answers > Request for confirmation

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