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LINGUIST List 23.5311

Mon Dec 17 2012

Review: Historical Linguistics: Xing (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 17-Dec-2012
From: Ksenia Antonyan <kvantonianyandex.ru>
Subject: Newest Trends in the Study of Grammaticalization and Lexicalization in Chinese
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1415.html

EDITOR: Xing, Janet Zhiqun
TITLE: Newest Trends in the Study of Grammaticalization and Lexicalization in
SERIES TITLE: Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs [TiLSM] 236
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2012

Ksenia V. Antonyan, Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences


This volume presents an overview of recent developments in the study of
grammaticalization and lexicalization in Chinese. It contains nine articles
devoted to the development of different words and grammatical constructions in
Chinese, and is divided into two parts. Part I (articles 1-7) centers
primarily on issues of grammaticalization, and Part II (articles 8-9) focuses
on lexicalization. The authors combine different methods and approaches to
the analysis of the material. The main conceptual frameworks are
Grammaticalization Theory and Construction Grammar. The contributors are
scholars from mainland China and Taiwan. (One of the articles is written
together with a prominent French scholar, Alain Peyraube.)

The scope of themes is very broad. Among the nine articles, five focus on the
issue of a certain grammatical category, such as the emergence of the definite
article, the development of modal verbs of volition, the emergence of the
classifier class, the disappearance of the repeater, and the process of
lexicalization. The remaining four articles are case studies of words which
have undergone the process of grammaticalization: the sentence-final particle
‘ye’, the directional verb ‘lai’, the degree adverb ‘hen’, and the verb of
giving ‘gei’.

The period of time taken into account is broad, too; it covers more than 3000

The volume begins with an introduction by the editor, Janet Zhiqun Xing. She
summarizes the main topics discussed in the book and gives an overview of the
theoretical approaches represented in it. She observes that in the last three
decades the study of grammaticalization and lexicalization has generated
tremendous interest among Western researchers who study Indo-European and
African languages (e.g., Heine & Reh 1984, Heine et al. 1991, Hopper &
Traugott 1993, and many other works), whereas Chinese has hardly been studied
by Western researchers with regard to these two phenomena. She points out that
Chinese is typologically different from these languages and exhibits a rich
and uninterrupted body of historical data (a recorded history of more than
3000 years). So, Chinese has a clear advantage over Indo-European and African
languages when it comes to the study of grammaticalization.

She also points out the main peculiarities of grammaticalization in Chinese.
Chinese is a language with serial verb constructions where verbs are not
marked for tense, number, etc. So, verbs may become grammaticalized into
function verbs more easily than they can in languages with agreement marking.
(The reviewer would like to add that this is true also for the nouns: the
nouns, having no inflection markers, can also be turned into function words
more easily.)

Another notable peculiarity of grammaticalization in Chinese is the so-called
accretion of meanings. According to Western researchers, semantic change in
grammaticalization develops along the following cline: A > A, B > B. In
Chinese the cline very often looks like A > A,B > A,B,C, where all of the
three meanings (A, B, C) may co-exist.

1. The article by Qianrui Chen, “The development of the Chinese aspectual
sentence-final marker ‘ye’,” shows that ‘ye’ has had two aspectual functions:
static and dynamic. There are two different views on their relationship:
whether the latter represents an extension of the former or whether there is
any relationship between the two at all. Chen argues that dynamic ‘ye’ is
derived from static ‘ye’, consistent with an established pattern of the
grammaticalization of perfect markers in Chinese and other languages.

2. Mei Fang, in the article “The emergence of a definite article in Beijing
Mandarin: The evolution of the proximal demonstrative ‘zhe’,” considers the
discourse and pragmatic functions of the proximal demonstrative ‘zhe’ and the
distal demonstrative ‘na’ in Contemporary Beijing Mandarin. The results of
this study show that the definite article was derived from the demonstrative
‘zhe’ through its recognitional use, a process that is accompanied by the
emergence of the use of ‘yi’ ‘one’ as an indefinite article. She argues that
such a functional shift from a demonstrative to a definite article is a clear
case of grammaticalization. As a result, a new grammatical category,
definiteness, has emerged in Contemporary Beijing Mandarin, even though this
pattern, as she points out, is not yet observed in written Mandarin Chinese.

3. The article “The grammaticalization of the directional verb ‘lai’: A
construction grammar approach” by Cheng-hui Liu investigates the various
syntagmatic functions of the directional verb ‘lai’. Liu concludes that the
constructionist view seems to be the only available perspective to explain why
the verb ‘lai’ has remained vital over an extraordinarily long period of time,
without being obviously influenced by any changes.

4. Mei-chun Liu and Chun Chang, in the article “The degree-evaluative
construction: Grammaticalization in constructionalization,” explore one type
of attributive predication in Mandarin Chinese in which a degree modifier
(‘hen’ ‘very’) is normally required to precede an attributive predicate.
Through discussion of the interaction between grammaticalization and
constructionalization, the authors demonstrate that the adverbial element
‘hen’ triggers the constructional interpretation and becomes grammaticalized
into a constructional operator. The authors say that their study demonstrates
how grammaticalization can go hand in hand with constructionalization in
shaping the grammar of Mandarin Chinese.

5. In “The semantic historical development of modal verbs of volition in
Chinese,” Alain Peyraube and Ming Li investigate different categories of
volitional verbs in Chinese written texts from Archaic Chinese to Modern
Chinese via the intermediate stage of Medieval Chinese. They argue that modals
that originally expressed the meaning of ‘intention’ are the only ones that
can become grammaticalized into future markers. It is less likely, if not
impossible, that the other two types (‘want’ and ‘hope’) will evolve in this
way because of their unique semantic and syntactic properties. They point out
three types of semantic change in the development of the modal verbs of
volition in Chinese: (1) Intention > Future, (2) Weak volition > Strong
Volition, (3) Physical domain > Mental domain.

6. Janet Zhiqun Xing, the editor of the volume, in her article “Semantic
change in the grammaticalization of classifiers in Mandarin Chinese” looks at
the emergence, development, and disappearance of classifiers in Mandarin
Chinese by investigating the semantic changes involved in the
grammaticalization of 16 of the most commonly used Modern Chinese numeral
classifiers. She provides historical evidence showing that three mechanisms --
metaphor, metonymy, and semantic reanalysis (following Eckardt 2006) -- play
an important role in the emergence and development of classifier meaning while
in the disappearance of classifiers, loss of semantic function and high
frequency have been shown to be major contributing factors. The article
contains a number of tables containing empirical data, which make the
presentation vivid and convincing. It also has an Appendix which presents
examples illustrating the historical development of all the 16 numeral
classifiers considered in the article.

7. Cheng Zhang, in the article “The repeater in Chinese and other languages,”
provides diachronic and synchronic evidence to refute the view that the
repeater is the earliest numeral classifier in Sino-Tibetan languages. She
argues that since the original meaning of the construction where the repeater
is used is not compatible with that of the classifier, it is unlikely that the
numeral classifier is derived from the repeater. From a semantic perspective,
both diachronic and synchronic evidence shows that most numeral classifiers
were not derived from repeaters.

8. Xiufang Dong’s paper, “Lexicalization in the history of the Chinese
language,” discusses various issues related to the characteristics and
processes of lexicalization in Chinese. First she demonstrates different types
of lexicalization observed in the history of the Chinese language:
lexicalization of lexical phrases, of functional phrases, and of syntactically
unrelated phrases. Then she discusses the degree of lexicalization,
constraints on lexicalization, the relation between syntactic change and
lexicalization, and the interaction between Chinese typology and
lexicalization. She points out that lexicalization, compared with
grammaticalization, might have more idiosyncratic and language-specific
features that are not, as yet, well understood by scholars. The relationship
between the characteristics of lexicalization and language typology is an
interesting topic that requires further investigation.

9. Feng-fu Tsao, in the article “Argument structure change, reanalysis and
lexicalization: Grammaticalization of transitive verbs into ditransitive verbs
in Chinese, Japanese and English,” investigates the change of argument
structure, reanalysis and lexicalization of ‘gei’ ‘give’ from a transitive
verb to a ditransitive verb in Chinese. In order for this to happen, a verb
has to go through a process of grammaticalization or lexicalization such as
serial-verb-construction condensation or adjunct incorporation. Tsao compares
‘gei’’s development with its counterparts in Japanese and English and finds
that its Japanese counterpart also undergoes the serial-verb construction
condensation while its English counterpart undergoes adjunct incorporation. He
also formulates an important constraint on ditransitivization: this process
involves only three naturally defined verb classes, namely, verbs of movement,
creation and acquisition.


The articles collected in this volume demonstrate the application of
typological findings to the analysis of Chinese material. The object of study
is not only Mandarin Chinese itself (i.e. Putonghua), but also its varieties,
e.g. Beijing Mandarin (chapters 2 and 6). The book is interesting and
stimulating, and enriches both the study of the Chinese language and its
history, and the development of linguistic theory. It is full of new
hypotheses and ideas, and all of the studies are based on vast empirical data
including language corpora and results of fieldwork.

It is significant that the volume brings together articles on
grammaticalization and lexicalization, for these processes are deeply
interrelated (see Lehmann 1989, 1995).

The editor writes in the Introduction that the reason why Chinese has been
little studied with regard to grammaticalization and lexicalization “is
probably twofold: Western researchers are not familiar with the Chinese
language and their Chinese counterparts are not familiar with the theoretical
framework developed in the West” (p. 3). However, I believe that the editor
has considerably underestimated both Western and Chinese scholars’
achievements. Not only are Chinese scholars quite familiar with
grammaticalization theory, they have already made a serious contribution to
it. They have organized a series of conferences on grammaticalization in the
Chinese language and published five collections of articles on the basis of
these conferences (e.g., see Wu & Zhang (eds.) 2011). Another international
conference, devoted to grammaticalization and lexicalization in Chinese, was
the 4th Kent Ridge International Roundtable Conference on Chinese Linguistics
(Singapore, 2008), presenting the papers of scholars from China, USA
(including the editor of this volume), Japan, Russia (including the reviewer),
and Singapore. Important publications on the topic in mainland China are Shi
Yuzhi (2002, 2003), Shi Yuzhi & Li Na (Charles N. Li) (2004), Wu Fuxiang
(2005) and (2006). As for Western publications in English, the editor has not
mentioned such important monographs as Shi Yuzhi (2002) and Xiu-zhi Zoe Wu
(2004). There are also two Russian monographs discussing, among other issues,
problems of grammaticalization and lexicalization in Chinese: Tan Aoshuang
(2002) and Antonyan (2003) (a short presentation in English is found in
Antonian 1998).

Xing writes that in Chinese the cline of grammaticalization is often A > A,B >
A,B,C, where all the three meanings (A, B, C) may co-exist. In the opinion of
the reviewer, this is due not only to the isolating nature of the Chinese
language structure, as the editor puts it, but also to the long co-existence
of the two literary languages of China: ‘wenyan’ and ‘baihua’.

Remarks on specific articles follow (the numbers refer to the article numbers
as the editor gives them in the Introduction).

1. Qianrui Chen: the reviewer notes that the particle ‘ye’ is a discourse
particle and it would be easier to understand its function if the author gave
a larger context of its uses: one sentence is not always enough.

4. Mei-chun Liu and Chun Chang demonstrate the interaction of two theoretical
frameworks: Grammaticalization Theory and Construction Grammar (see Goldberg
2005, 2006). I would suggest that ‘grammaticalization’ and
‘constructionalization’ refer to one and the same phenomenon, just viewed from
different angles. I also remain convinced that it is the poly-functionality of
Chinese words, especially in colloquial speech, that enables the usage of
different parts of speech in the X slot in the construction {‘hen’ + X}, and
not the qualities of the degree evaluative construction itself.

The Russian scholar A. A. Dragunov was one of the first to write on the
desemanticization of ‘hen’ and its transformation into a formal element, a
sort of copula (Dragunov 1952, pp. 209-213; see also the Chinese translation
Long 1958, and the German translation, Dragunov 1960).

6. It seems to the reviewer that it is not theoretically correct to speak of
the three mechanisms of grammaticalization -- metaphor, metonymy and semantic
reanalysis. I would argue that these three notions belong to different
spheres: metaphor (metaphorization, metaphoricalization) and metonymy
(metonymization) are cognitive mechanisms/processes, while reanalysis (whether
syntactic or semantic) is a linguistic notion that refers to the formal
consequences of these processes.

7. The position of Cheng Zhang concerning the status of the repeater is not
quite clear to the reviewer. That is, is it a part of speech or a syntactic
function of a noun? The definition of the repeater (“a type of nominal
modifier which is formally identical to the noun that it modifies,” p. 215)
implies that it is a syntactic function, whereas the uses of this notion in
the article imply that it is a part of speech. If it is a syntactic function
and any noun can be used in this function, then how can we pose a question
whether numeral classifiers were or were not derived from repeaters?

Some technical remarks: In the Table of Contents, as well as in the main text
of the book, the chapters are not numbered. Meanwhile in the Introduction the
editor refers to them by their numbers. The book would be much more
user-friendly if the chapters were numbered.

It would be useful for the readers if the book provided information on the
contributors’ institutions. It is only in Chapter 5 (p. 149) that this
information is provided.

The volume contains a Subject index, but, unfortunately, some very important
terms are missing; for example, the term ‘constructionalization’, one of the
key terms for this volume.

The book contains a considerable number of typos. This concerns primarily the
pinyin transcription of Chinese phrases, and tone signs (e.g., ‘yuǚwén’
instead of ‘yǚwén’, p. 21, ‘ Hànyû shî gâo’ instead of ‘Hànyŭ shĭ găo’, p.
302). One also comes across extra symbols and technical guidelines for the
authors (p. 85, line 16 from below, p. 152, line 2 from above) that should
have been omitted in the final version of the text. There are also typos in
proper names (‘Echardt’ instead of ‘Eckardt’, p. 1, ‘Kutiva’ instead of
‘Kuteva’, p. 3) and diagrams (Diagram 1, p. 109), as well as in the
translation of Chinese examples (‘The child is can be taught’ instead of ‘The
child can be taught’, p. 25).

The editor does not explain why she uses the brackets in the scheme A > A, B >
(B) (p. 3). Heine et al. (1991, p. 74) do not use the brackets and put the
scheme as follows: A > A, B > B.

The title of the ancient Chinese dictionary “Shuo wen jie zi” is translated as
“Definition and explanation of words and characters” (p. 176). The translation
is not precise. The authors of “Chinese Lexicography” (Yong & Peng 2008)
translate it as “An Explanatory Dictionary of Chinese Characters” (p. 435).
Actually, the title means “Explaining the simple characters (‘wen’) and
analyzing the composite ones (‘zi’)”; the notion of word is not used in the

Nonetheless, all of the articles are important contributions to the corpus of
work on diachronic change in Chinese. They expand the understanding of Western
scholars interested in the history of the Chinese language. The results of
the studies are useful for cross-linguistic research in various domains, such
as aspectual typology, typology of poly-predicative constructions, modal
verbs, nominal classifiers, etc. They will also be very useful for teaching
the Chinese language and its theory and history, since it contains interesting
data on new tendencies in language use not yet reflected in textbooks and
normative grammars.


Antonian, Ksenia. 1998. Resultative verb compounds in Mandarin Chinese:
Grammaticalization and lexicalization. Cahiers de Linguistique - Asie
Orientale. Vol. 27(2). Paris. Pp. 255-265.

Antonyan, Ksenia. 2003. Morphologiya rezultativnych konstrukcij v kitayskom
yazyke (Morphology of Resultative Constructions in Chinese). Moscow: Muravei
(in Russian, English summary).

Dragunov, Aleksandr A. 1952. Issledovaniya po grammatike sovremennogo
kitaiskogo yazyka (Research on the Grammar of Contemporary Chinese). Moscow:

Dragunov, Aleksandr A. 1960. Untersuchungen zur Grammatik der modernen
chinesischen Sprache. (German translation of Dragunov 1952.) Berlin:
Akademie-Verlag (Ostasiatische Forschungen : Sonderreihe Monographien.)

Eckardt, R. 2006. Meaning change in grammaticalization: An enquiry into
semantic reanalysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goldberg, A. E. 2005. Constructions: A construction grammar approach to
argument structure. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Goldberg, A. E. 2006. Constructions at work: The nature of generalization in
language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Heine B., Claudi, U., Huennemeyer, F. 1991. Grammaticalization: A conceptual
framework. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Heine, B. & Reh, M. 1984. Grammaticalization and reanalysis in African
languages. Hamburg.

Hopper, P. & Traugott, E. 1993. Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Lehmann, C. 1989. Grammatikalisierung und Lexikalisierung. Zeitschrift fuer
Phonetik, Sprachwissen¬schaft und Kommunikationsforshung. Vol. 42(1).

Lehmann, C. 1995. Thoughts on Grammaticalization. LINCOM Studies in
Theoretical Linguistics 01. Muenchen, Newcastle: LINCOM Europa.

Long, Guofu (Dragunov, Aleksandr A). 1958. Xiandai Hanyu yufa yanjiu. (Chinese
translation of Dragunov 1952.) Beijing: Kexue chubanshe.

Shi, Yuzhi 2002. The establishment of Modern Chinese Grammar. The formation of
the resultative construction and its effects. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John
Benjamins Publishing Company.

Shi, Yuzhi. 2003. Xiandai Hanyu yufa xitong de jianli (The establishment of
Modern Chinese Grammar). Beijing: Beijing yuyan daxue chubanshe.

Shi, Yuzhi & Li, Na. 2004. Hanyu yufahua de lishi. Xingtai jufa fazhan de
dongyin he jizhi (A History of Grammaticalization in Chinese. Motivations and
mechanisms of evolution of Chinese morpho-syntax). Beijing: Beijing Daxue

Tan, Aoshuang. 2002. Problemy skrytoi grammatiki (Problems of hidden grammar).
Moscow: Yazyki slavianskoi kultury.

Wu, Fuxiang (ed.). 2005. Hanyu yufahua yanjiu (Research on grammaticalization
in Chinese). Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan.

Wu, Fuxiang. 2006. Yufahua yu Hanyu lishi yufa yanjiu (Grammaticalization and
research on historical grammar of Chinese). Hefei: Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe.

Wu, Fuxiang & Zhang, Yisheng (eds.). 2011. Yufahua yu yufa yanjiu
(Grammaticalization and research on grammar), Vol. 5. Beijing: Shangwu

Wu, Xiu-Zhi Zoe. 2004. Grammaticalization and Language Change in Chinese. A
formal view. London and New York: Routledge Curzon.

Yong, Heming & Peng, Jing. 2008. Chinese Lexicography. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.


Ksenia V. Antonyan (Antonian) is senior research fellow at the Department of
East and Southeast Asian Languages at the Institute of Linguistics, Russian
Academy of Sciences (Moscow). Her field of research is Modern Chinese grammar,
verb compounds and the phenomena of grammaticalization and lexicalization. She
published a book, “Morphology of Resultative Constructions in Chinese”
(Moscow: Muravei, 2003; in Russian, English summary). She has taught three
courses: Chinese, Theory of Chinese Grammar and History of Chinese Grammar at
Russian State University for Humanities (Moscow).
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