Documentation for the Grammar Matrix Customization Yes/No Questions Library


This document explains how to fill out the Matrix Yes/No Questions page of the Grammar Matrix Customization questionnaire and presents background information on the Matrix Yes/No Questions library of the Grammar Matrix Customization System (Bender et al., 2002; Bender and Flickinger, 2005; Bender et al., 2010). General instructions on using the questionnaire can be found here.

Citing the Matrix Yes/No Questions Library

The standard reference for the Matrix Yes/No Questions Library and its implementations is Bender & Flickinger, 2005. The full reference and .bib entry can be found here.


The Matrix Yes/No Questions page allows you to specify strategy/strategies that your language uses to form matrix (i.e. not embedded) yes-no questions. You can either choose from three pre-defined options below or skip this section entirely, in which case your grammar will not include a question-forming strategy.

Grammar Matrix customization system offers three options for strategies employed to form matrix yes/no questions, described in more detail below. You can select any number of these options.


Forming matrix yes/no questions strategy using intonation is not a separate option because intonation is not typically represented in the orthography (and we do not having a library for punctuation yet). So intonation questions are “modeled” in the sense that in fact anything not marked specifically as a question is [ SF prop-or-ques ], i.e. underspecified.

A separate question particle

First strategy employed by languages to form matrix yes/no questions described on the Matrix Yes/No Questions page is the use of a separate question particle. Question particles can occupy different positions in the sentence. Grammar Matrix currently offers two pre-defined options for question particle position in the sentence:

If a question particle in your language occupies a position other than sentence initial or sentence final, you can still choose one of the pre-defined options above and later manually modify your_language.tdl file.

If you indicate that your language uses a separate question particle to form questions, you will also need to add the spelling of the question particle as requested on the Matrix Yes/No Questions page.

An example of a language that uses a question particle to form matrix yes/no questions is Russian. Russian question particle li (sometimes also referred to as "clitic") is placed after the first phonological word in the matrix yes/no questions (King 1995), so it usually occupies second or third position in the sentence. Since the Grammar Matrix customization system does not currently cover question particles that are neither sentence initial, nor sentence final, the best solution for a question formation strategy for a language like Russian is to choose one of the options above (sentence initial or sentence final). Below is a snippet of code from choices file related to question formation in a language like Russian, with the sentence final position option chosen for the question particle, as reflected in the third line: q-part-order=after):


As noted above, choosing sentence final position for the question particle will require a later modification of your_language.tdl file to reflect the actual position of this particle in the sentence.

Verbal inflection

Verbal inflection is another strategy used by languages to form matrix yes/no questions. Please note that if you select the verbal inflection option, your starter grammar will include a feature [QUESTION], which will appear when you fill out the Verb Types section later on the Lexicon page. For each verb that you define on the Lexicon page you will be able to define the feature QUESTION and its value as "plus", as well as indicate that it is specified on the verb.

Subject-verb inversion

Some languages use subject-verb inversion to form matrix yes/no questions. If your language employs the subject-verb inversion strategy, please select which verbs (main, auxiliary, or all verbs) are inverted from options provided below:

The choices you make on the Matrix Yes/No Questions customization page will also affect the lexical types (your_language_name.tdl file) and possibly inflectional rules (irules.tdl file).

As mentioned in the questionnaire, if your language uses verbal inflection for yes/no matrix question forming and you choose a corresponding option on the Matrix Yes/No Questions page, your grammar will include feature [QUESTION] with possibly a value [PLUS] to be used in defining morphemes on the Lexicon page. If/when you define a morpheme with value [QUESTION plus], this will create lexical rules adding question semantics to your grammar.

For more information on analyses and implementations of the matrix yes/no question forming strategies described above please refer to Analyses section below.


The grammar Matrix customization system provides support for questions formed by intonation, which implies associating the same string with either proposition or question semantics (specified as [prop-or-ques] in your grammar).

If your language uses inversion of the subject and the main verb for yes/no question forming, this strategy is implemented through a lexical rule that (1). relocates the subject (SUBJ) to the first position in the COMPS list, and (2). assigns a positive value to inverted feature INV on verbs.

If your language uses inversion of the subject and the auxiliary verb for yes/no question forming, this strategy is implemented through constraining the basic inversion lexical rule (for inversion of the subject and the main verb, as described above) to apply only to auxiliary verbs.

If you have selected any of the yes/no question marking strategies above, your grammar will assign [ques] value to SF in semantic INDEX for questions because of this constraint in matrix.tdl:

interrogative-clause := basic-non-rel-clause & 

Please refer to Bender and Flickinger 2005 for additional information on the matrix yes/no questions and other libraries in Grammar Matrix Customization system.

Upcoming Work

This library is one of the original ones from Bender and Flickinger 2005 and has yet to be reworked and put on a firm typological foundation. While there is no current plans to do so, this would make a good MA/MS-sized thesis topic.

One of the possible improvements to Matrix Yes/No Questions library by Grammar Matrix customization system would be added support for declarative/interrogative punctuation contrasts.


King, T. H. (1995). Configuring Topic and Focus in Russian. Dissertation.

Bender, E., & Flickinger, D. 2005. Rapid prototyping of scalable grammars: Towards modularity in extensions to a language-independent core. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing IJCNLP-05 (Posters/Demos), Jeju Island, Korea.

MatrixDoc/YesNoQ (last edited 2018-11-06 15:11:51 by OlgaZamaraeva)

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