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How do writers of American English inform the reader that the current sentence is a question (with all the assumptions and prosody that go with it) without sacrificing the content, format, impact, etc. of the sentence? (In Spanish the problem is alleviated by use of the inverted question mark.)


Running into a lot of trouble handling finances and balancing your budget?

The fastest way to find the north pole is to run there?

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I'm not proficient in Japanese, so correct me if I'm saying something dumb, but last time I checked, か was a final interrogative particle, coming at the very end of a sentence and not changing the intonation of the rest of it, like, at all. As to your English examples, would you regard the rewordings "Are you running into..." and "Is (it really (so that)) the fastest way..." as sacrificing the content/format/impact? – RegDwigнt Nov 26 '10 at 17:12
RegDwight is correct. In fact, almost invariably the first thing one encounters in a Japanese sentence is the subject, unless that is already understood. The link you provide to "opening interrogative particle" actually has か at the end: 分かるか? Moreover, in modern informal Japanese, the か is often omitted entirely. 座ってもいい? ("Suwattemo ii?") is a perfectly valid way to ask if you may sit down. – Robusto Nov 26 '10 at 17:28
I should add that that last sentence is a perfectly valid but informal way to ask if you may sit down. You would say it to a friend, not to your boss. :) – Robusto Nov 26 '10 at 17:37
Sorry about that. Deleted the Japanese example. @RedDwight, yes. I was implying in the second example that adding words to a sentence often lessens its impact. – WAF Nov 26 '10 at 17:38
One way you could alert the reader is by preceding the sentence with "Question:" :) – Kosmonaut Nov 27 '10 at 5:40

Usually English starts a question with the verb. "The fastest way to find the north pole is to run there?" is an unusual question (not an impossible one, just one that requires somewhat unusual conditions). The more usual way would be "Is the fastest way to find the north pole to run there?" (or perhaps better, "Is running the fastest way to find the north pole?") which is clearly a question from the first word.

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Only yes/no questions start with the verb. The rest begin with a WH-word (who/what/where/etc). When the verb or WH-word does not begin the question sentence, this usually means that you are asking an echo question (glottopedia.de/index.php/Echo_question). It's not particularly unusual. – Kosmonaut Nov 27 '10 at 5:36

The question words are often used an indicator of a question. They are who, what, when, where, are, how, is and why.

Both of these sentences you presented are pretty awkward. The first because it is so long. It can be improved by making it shorter, or adding "are you" to the beginning. The second seems like it is quoting someone else and repeating it for clarity. Out of context, it doesn't make sense.

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I agree that they are certainly awkward out of context. They might not be the greatest examples, but the problem of unexpected '?'s definitely exists in some contexts. The question is really whether there is a good way to avoid this problem without forming the sentence as a "who", "where", or other standard question word sentence. Thanks! – WAF Nov 26 '10 at 17:42

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