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Cahiers de Linguistique -.

About Studies in Chinese Language

Peyraube A. A general account of research on Chinese historical grammar since the end of the 70s until has been given in chapter 5 'Recent issues on Chinese historical syntax1 of Huang and Li The following topics are discussed in some detail: word order and word order change, disposal form, passives, dative constructions, locative structures, aspectual suffixes, conjunctions of coordination, and other problems resultative construction, determinative particles, demonstrative and personal pronouns, classifiers, interrogatives.

Since , the amount of research done on Chinese historical syntax has increased considerably. Other studies have then dealt with new grammatical problems, such as modal auxiliary verbs, localizers, directional verbs, adverbs and final particles. Finally, some important works have been realized as sizable monographs, either general Jiang , Zhu , or on specific issues Cao a on aspectual, structural or modal particles, Sun on word order , or on a particular period or text Zhang et al.

However, the most important contributions of these recent years to the field are probably the theoretical and methodological reflections made on the mechanisms of change in Chinese. The present topical review will first discuss these reflections section 2 , and especially the recurrent operations, which constitute empirical generalizations made on the basis of the examination of a good number of data section 3.

Another important characteristic of the latest research on Chinese morpho-syntactic change is the breach of a relatively high consensus which existed among the specialists of Chinese historical grammar until very recently. This new situation is indeed more promising than unfortunate. It reflects the vitality of the field. Lightfoot once said that there is more consensus about change in 'exotic' languages because there are only a few linguists working on them.

Several major problems of Chinese syntax, like the origin of the aspectual markers, the evolution of the Prepositional Phrases, or of the classifier system, through intricate processes of grammaticalization and constituent movement, will then be discussed in detail in the fourth section of the paper. Given the abundant documentation on the history of these phenomena dozens of papers have been devoted to these questions , one might think that it should be easy to trace their source and their development.

However, that is not the case. They are now comparable to the problem of do-support in Middle English, for which it is still unclear whether it resulted from contact, developed internally from the causative do, or developed from the aspectual do. Theoretical and methodological reflections on the mechanisms of change in Chinese.

As stated in Peyraube a , the two essential mechanisms said to account for the appearance of new grammatical forms remain those identified by Meillet eighty-five years ago: analogy and grammaticalization.

History of Modern Chinese Grammar Studies

A third and external mechanism has been added to these two internal ones:. However, we today have a much better understanding of the implementation of these mechanisms, and of the principles and constraints which regulate them, in general linguistics as well as in Chinese linguistics. Before characterizing these mechanisms, I will briefly outline the two fundamental approaches on syntactic change which have been developed since the end of the 70s, namely the formal- generative approach of Lightfoot , and the functional- discourse approach of Faarlund , Hopper and Traugott , and many others, and try to assess their impact on Chinese historical syntax studies.

Formal-generative approach. This approach, which sees grammar as a set of rules that specify all the possible grammatical structures of the language, is based on the following three main claims : i child language acquisition is responsible for grammatical change; ii change - which occurs as a result of reanalysis - is abrupt and not discrete; iii syntactic change is autonomous and operates independently of considerations of meaning and use.

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Lightfoot also suggests a Transparency Principle TP. Grammatical complexity, opacity, builds up gradually in the language across time. Too much complexity violates the TP. There is then a sudden catastrophic restructuring of the grammar which. The TP applies, ridding the language of opacity and restoring transparency. Lightfoot incorporates the TP into the Principles- and-Parameters approach, with parameter settings. Differences between languages across time or across geographical or social space are now conceived as being the result of different settings of the parameters in the process of language acquisition.

As for i [child language acquisition is responsible for grammatical change], there is evidence today that grammatical change is not always limited to the language acquisition problem. As noticed by Traugott forthcoming , many examples of morpho- syntactic change seem likely to have been initiated by adults, 'because of the complex inferences involved and the discourse functions in structuring text.

In Chinese linguistics the two domains historical syntax and first language acquisition have rarely been congruent. As for ii [catastrophic changes], Romaine has shown that syntactic change shows gradual diffusion, like diffusing sound change. I have myself applied the theory of catastrophic change in several papers notably Peyraube to account for syntactic change in Chinese.

I argued, however, that the notion of simultaneity refers solely to the time of change in the grammar, not the subsequent spread across the community. Peymube A. There is actually growing evidence today that it is not useful to consider syntactic change in terms of a dichotomy between gradual vs abrupt. Syntactic change has both gradual and abrupt aspects. Lightfoot himself has recently incorporated graduality into his model of syntactic change: 'changes involving new parameters setting tend to take place much more rapidly than other changes, and they manifest the Kroch's S-curve i. A distinction should in fact be made between actuation or how changes start and implementation spread of changes.

In any case, the spread is gradual. When the verb ba 'to take, to grasp' - used originally as a main verb in a single construction ' S VO1- starts to be used in VI in a serial-verb construction 'VI - Ol - V2 - 02 ' around the 2nd or 3rd c. Given that model of change start and spread, it is not surprising that some scholars have applied to syntactic change the lexical diffusionist hypotheses see Wang, for sound.

See Aitchinson's analysis of the changes in the English modals system, or Aitchinson's study of word order change in English. What is more curious is that the lexical diffusion theory, initiated for accounting for Chinese sound change, has not been yet integrated in a systematic way in any model of Chinese syntactic change. As for iii [syntactic change is independent], this claim has been called into question by most linguists working on historical syntax, and especially, as will be seen, by those who adopt the functional-discourse alternative approach.

On the whole, there are now few partisans of the formal 'new parameters setting' approach among the diachronicist syntacticians, and none of them can be really found among the specialists of Chinese historical syntax. This situation is not entirely desirable. Harris and Campbell are probably right when they state that 'a fully adequate theory of syntactic change cannot afford to neglect either the innate with attention to child language acquisition or the functional with attention to discourse functions motivations for language change.

Functional-discourse approach.

Historical change in Chinese grammar

The functional approach 'sees language first and foremost as a system of communication and analyzes grammar to discover how it is organized to allow speakers and writers to make and exchange meanings' Lock Change is understood as being not necessarily a consequence of a transition from generation to generation, explained by child language acquisition, but rather as the result of language fulfilling its discourse and communicative functions.

Syntactic change is then viewed as a result of the communicative function of the language. There is no doubt that Meillet would have agreed with this approach.

Indeed, he suggested that the motivation for grammaticalization was the speaker's desire for expressiveness The claim that grammatical change is motivated by speaker-hearer interactions and communicative strategies is a teleological claim that change is goal-oriented. However, as suggested by Hopper and Traugott , the position can be taken that languages are clearly not goal-oriented, but that their users may be, consciously or unconsciously. Functionalists are not only interested in the mechanisms of change, but also in the motivations, if not the causes, of grammatical change.

Hopper and Traugott , for instance, attempt to answer all the four questions: what motivates syntactic change in the first place, what mechanisms lead to it, what are its probable paths of progression through time, and what are its end results? Opposed to the formal-generative approach which considers that syntactic change is autonomous, i. For Hopper and Traugott , 68 , 'meaning changes and the cognitive strategies that motivate them are central in the early stages of grammaticalization [i. They confirm that if grammaticalization indeed involves over time a process of loss of semantic content 'semantic attrition1, 'bleaching', 'weakening1, etc.

Various other motivations such as economy, efficiency, clarity, expressivity, or routinization are issues of usage and speaker-hearer purposes, and can be called 'pragmatic,' as they have to do with the relationship between language and the contexts in which it is used.

Of special interest is of course the role of speakers and hearers negotiating meaning in communicative situations. The motivations of simplicity and informativeness are inevitably in competition in the individual language user. For instance, Traugott assumes three functional- semantic components in language, namely the propos itional, textual and expressive components. The propositional component contains the basic resources a language has for talking about some. The textual component contains elements 'directly linked to the unfolding of the speech event itself Finally, the expressive component includes linguistic elements which express personal attitude to the topic or to the other participants.

She then puts forward two hypotheses: A and B. Hypothesis A: 'If a meaning-shift in the process of grammaticalization occurs within a component, it is more likely to involve "less personal to more personal" than the reverse. Hypothesis B: 'If there occurs a meaning-shift, which, in the process of grammaticalization, entails shifts from one functional-semantic component to another, then such a shift is more likely to be from propositional through textual to expressive than in the reverse direction. The paths of change or constraints on the directionality of semantic change are then resumed in three tendencies.

A good illustration of the tendency for increasing subjectivisation is given by Traugott's analysis of some English modals, for which it is argued that deontic meanings historically precede their epistemic ones. Peyraube b, c has also tried to show that, for the Chinese auxiliary verbs, the.

To sum up, the functional-discourse approach in grammatical change has certainly been more promising than the formal-generative one, and its application to the Chinese case has been much more effective. Almost all the important studies on historical syntax made within the past decade can be characterized as functional-discourse oriented. This will also be seen in the following discussion on the three main mechanisms of syntactic change analogy, reanalysis [including grammaticalization] and borrowing.

I will follow Harris and Campbell's claim that no other mechanisms exist. Analogy extension. Following Meillet the notion of analogy, popularized by the Neo-grammarians, has been used for grammatical change, referring to the attraction of extant forms to already existing constructions. Analogy, which makes some irregular forms conform to a regular pattern, is irregular but produces regularity.


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Several definitions have been provided for analogy. Hopper and Traugott speak of 'new paradigms which come into being through formal resemblance to already established paradigms. Another definition, which parallels the one usually given for reanalysis, concerns the levels of surface structure, and D- structure. Analogy only modifies the surface structure and does not modify the underlying structure. Analogy has been widely studied and it has been suggested that almost all the changes have an analogical ingredient Anttila, ; Lightfoot, a. Most scholars would probably agree now that analogy does not represent a principle of grammatical change 'the fact that many reanalyses can be interpreted as analogical extensions does not make analogy a principle of change, least of all an explanatory principle' Lightfoot, b, p.

Analogy, as Kurylowicz , once said, is like rain water: it must take a certain path channel, gutter, etc. In other words, analogy may tell us what is the mechanism of a change, but it cannot furnish the causes of such a change. Since the term analogy has been used to cover many different sorts of phenomena, Harris and Campbell prefer to avoid the term altogether and use the term 'extension. Analogy being a broad, powerful mechanism of change, there have been attempts to identify conditions, constraints on analogical rules, or prerequisites, which could explicit situations that will be necessary, though not sufficient, for analogy to apply.

Such attempts have not been very successful.

Chinese Language and Literature ( M.S. )

The six laws of Kurylowicz or the nine tendencies of Manczak - hypothesized for morphological change - have been much discussed, but nobody would seriously consider them today for syntactic change. See McMahon As for Chinese syntactic change, almost everybody who has worked on Chinese historical syntax since the beginning of the 80s and the pioneering work of Mei , has made use of analogical processes to account for grammatical change.

Reanalysis including grammaticalization. Grammaticalization, which has been the object of numerous detailed research works done during the last years see Heine, Claudi and Hunnemeyer , Traugott and Heine , Hopper and Traugott , Pagliuca , and, for Chinese, Peyraube , Liu, Cao and Wu , Sun after being neglected for more than half a century, is not an explanatory principle either.