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Review of A Synchronic and Diachronic Study of the Grammar of the Chinese Xiang Dialects
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2006 00:43:47 -0800 (PST) From: Jianhua HU Subject: A synchronic and diachronic study of the grammar of the Xiang dialects
AUTHOR: Wu, Yunji TITLE: A Synchronic and Diachronic Study of the Grammar of the Chinese Xiang Dialects SERIES: Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 162 PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2005
Jianhua Hu, Department of Linguistics, Hunan University, P. R. China
This book is a study of the Chinese Xiang dialects spoken in Hunan, from both a synchronic and diachronic perspective. Following Bao and Li (1985), it classifies the dialects spoken in Hunan into dialects distributed over five broad areas: (1) the Xiang dialects spoken in the center of Hunan; (2) southwestern Mandarin dialects spoken in the west and south; (3) the Gan and Hakka dialects spoken in the east; (4) the Waxiang dialect spoken in the west of Hunan; (5) some unnamed dialects spoken in the south of Hunan. The book also follows Yuan Jiahua (1983) in dividing the Xiang dialects group into New Xiang and Old Xiang, with Old Xiang maintaining the Middle Chinese voiced initials that New Xiang has lost. The book consists of ten chapters, in addition to Introduction, Final Remarks, and a substantial Appendix. This book will be of interest to scholars and students working on grammar, dialectology, historical linguistics, comparative linguistics, typological linguistics, and grammaticalization.
Introduction. The introductory chapter, besides introducing the linguistic approach and data of the book, gives an overview of Xiang grammar. It claims that the methods and theories of comparative and typological linguistics will be used in its synchronic study of contemporary Xiang grammar, and the methods and theories of historical linguistics and grammaticalization will be adopted in its diachronic study of the evolution of the syntactical systems of the Xiang dialects. Data used in this book include recorded narratives and existing publications in the study of Xiang dialects, in addition to the author's own data collection and fieldwork. The overview of Xiang grammar, which serves as background for the chapters to follow, covers topics such as word structure, syntactic categories, and word order.
Chapter 1 The Spoken Language of the Xiang Dialects. This chapter introduces the main phonological features of the Xiang dialects and the evolution of the phonological system of the Changsha (the capital city of Hunan) dialect over 50 years. The most significant phonological feature of the Xiang dialects is the retention of the contrast between Middle Chinese voiced and voiceless consonants, which has been lost in most other Chinese dialects. This chapter also discusses how conflicting speech codes have caused sound change and semantic variation in the Changsha community. The general tendency in Changsha has been a shift from 21 tone to 45 tone. According to the author, the shift towards a higher tone results from the influence of Putonghua (PTH), ie., the standard Chinese.
Chapter 2 Written Language of the Xiang Dialects. This chapter discusses the techniques for representing Xiang dialects in Chinese characters. There are two types of written materials in which Xiang dialects are represented in characters: those mainly written in dialects and those written in a combination of Mandarin and dialects. Based on the discussion of the difficulties and techniques used in recording dialects in three types of examples (A Dictionary of the Changsha Dialect, two published editions of a novel, and the tape and libretto of two local operas), the author points out that there are three techniques that the book will use in representing Xiang dialects. They are: (1) the use of corresponding characters; (2) the use of a homophonous character; (3) the use of a hollow rectangle.
Chapter 3 Morphology and Its Evolution in the Xiang Dialects. This chapter discusses the lexical systems of the Xiang dialects. It shows that, although a Xiang dialect may share up to 85% of its morphemes with Mandarin, a Xiang dialect may have a small proportion of monosyllabic morphemes, mainly verbs describing bodily movement, that are absent from Mandarin. For instance, in Changsha and Loudi dialects, there are 42 verbs describing bodily movements (verbs describing movements related to five senses and movements of head, hands, feet or the whole body, etc.) that have no corresponding forms in Mandarin. It also shows how words are formed in Xiang dialects. According to the author, affixation has the most distinguishing features in Xiang dialects.
Chapter 4 Pronouns and Their Evolution in the Xiang Dialects. This chapter introduces the pronominal systems and their features in the Xiang dialects, using pronouns of the Changsha dialect as major examples. The research, which is based on the author's own fieldwork, shows that, although both suffixation and tonal variation are used to mark the difference between singular and plural forms of personal pronouns in the Xiang dialects, a shift has occurred from tonal variation to suffixation, due to the influence of northern Chinese. Besides showing that there exists a three-way instead of two-way distinction in demonstrative pronouns in some localities, it further demonstrates that there is a close relationship between personal and demonstrative pronouns in phonology, due to the etymological relationship or analogy. Another interesting point about demonstrative pronouns from the syntactic perspective is that in some localities, for instance, the Xinhua dialect, demonstrative pronouns like 'this' and 'that' cannot occupy argument positions.
Chapter 5 Adverbs and Their Evolution in the Xiang Dialects. This chapter describes the adverbial system in the Changsha dialect, showing that most adverbs in the Changsha dialect are not related to those in Mandarin in etymology. Negative adverbs in the Xiang dialects are the focus of discussion in this chapter. It is claimed that in the Xiang dialects the negative adverb derived from a verb with a bilabial nasal consonant, and there used to be no distinction between a negative verb and a negative adverb, as is the case with the Longhui and Xiangxiang dialects which still keep traces of the earlier stage in this aspect.
Chapter 6 The Evolution of Passive and Disposal Constructions in the Xiang Dialects. While briefly describing the prepositional markers, this chapter focuses on the discussion of the historical development of the passive and disposal constructions in the Xiang dialects. Based on her investigation of the oral data from one hundred localities, the author shows that twenty forms can be used as disposal markers and thirty- three as passive markers. An interesting point to note is that the Xiang dialects differ from Mandarin in that the disposal and passive markers in some localities are often derived from the same verb. The disposal markers mainly came from the verb with the meaning 'to give' or 'to take'. The passive markers, besides deriving from the above two meanings, can also come from verbs meaning 'to suffer', 'to receive', or 'to request', etc. Another difference between Mandarin and the Xiang dialects is that both disposal and passive markers in the Xiang dialects derived from active verbs.
Chapter 7 Aspectual Markers and Their Evolution in the Xiang Dialects. This chapter consists of three parts. Part one discusses the aspect markers in the Changsha and Xiangxiang dialects. These aspect markers mainly fall into three categories: perfective, anterior, and continuative. Part two examines how aspect markers evolved from locative markers. Part three studies the grammaticalization path of the aspect markers in the Xiang dialects. It is claimed that all the aspect markers in the Xiang dialects came from verbs indicating direction. While some aspect markers may indicate the same directional meaning, they may also be used to express the same aspect meaning. In the Xiang dialects, not all aspect markers have finished their process of grammaticalization. Although some aspect markers in Xiang have become pure aspect markers, there are still some aspect markers that bear the same phonetic forms as their original verbs and can thus be used as free verbs.
Chapter 8 The Evolution of Structural Particles in the Xiang Dialects. This chapter describes the forms that are used to express the subordinating relation between a modifier and a modified head. In Mandarin, a structural particle (SP) with the same phonetic form, ie., DE, may be used to indicate the modifying relation between an attributive and a head, or between an adverbial and a head, or between a verbal complement and a head that precedes the relevant particle. It is shown in this chapter that the situation of the SP with the above grammatical functions in the Xiang dialects is more complex than that in Mandarin. For instance, the SP DE occurring before a nominal head in Mandarin can be represented by three different forms in the Xinhua and Lianyuan dialects: a plural suffix, a classifier or a structural particle. What is interesting with these two dialects is that, if the nominal head refers to people, the plural suffix must be used, whether the modifier has plural reference or not. The author proposes that there are at least four layers of attributive particles in the Xiang dialects, and in layer one, there was a distinction between the attributive SP and the nominalizer. It is claimed that this distinction can still be found in some parts of Qiyang and Xinhua.
Chapter 9 The Modal Particles in the Xiang Dialects and Their Evolution. The first part of this chapter describes the modal particles in the Changsha dialect, which can be classified into phrase particles and sentence particles according to the author. It is pointed out that the Xiang dialects differ from Mandarin in that, whereas Mandarin uses intonation or adverbs to indicate the speaker's intention and willingness, the Xiang dialects often use modal particles instead in natural utterances, and that modal particles usually have a stressed or prolonged tone in the Xiang dialects. The second part of this chapter discusses the evolution of modal particles of interrogative sentences in the Xiang dialects. It claims that the basic structure of the Yes/No questions in the Xiang dialects is in the form of [V + Neg + (MOD)], which is a construction that can be traced back to Archaic Chinese, and now, this structure has begin to shift to [V + FF(fusion form)].
Chapter 10 The Evolution of Double-Object and De Constructions in the Xiang Dialects. The first part of this chapter describes the double- object construction. It shows that the double-object construction takes the form of [V + DO + IO] in Xiang, as opposed to the form of [V + IO + DO] in Mandarin. As regards the above form in Xiang, a dative marker is not required in some dialects, but compulsory in others. It is proposed that the difference between Mandarin and the Xiang dialects with respect to the double-object construction may be related to the fact that the double-object construction in Mandarin evolved from the form [V + Dative M + IO + DO], whereas that in the Xiang dialects evolved from the form [V + DO + Dative M + IO] and [V1 + DO + V1 + IO]. The second part of this chapter discusses the evolution of [DE + V] and [V + DE] constructions in the Xiang dialects. It suggests that DE in these two structures evolved from the same lexical source, though they did not undergo the same path of development. In the first structure, it developed from the active meaning of 'to obtain', while in the second structure, it developed from the passive meaning of 'to be obtained' and can still be used as a verb indicating the completion of an action.
Final Remarks. This chapter summarizes the distinctive grammatical features of the Xiang dialects that have been revealed in this book.
This is the first book in international Chinese linguistics that describes the grammar of the Xiang dialects spoken in Hunan. Both synchronic and diachronic methods have been used in its description and analysis of the Xiang data which came from not only existing publications, but also the author's own field work. It shows convincingly that the Xiang dialects keep different layers of specific grammatical forms in different localities, which in fact offers an excellent mirror to view different stages of grammaticalization of function words in Chinese. The investigation into the Xiang dialects from the diachronic perspective demonstrates not only the possibility of tracing the grammaticalization path of the function words, but also that of reconstructing earlier layers of grammar on the basis of the modern Xiang data. The author points out that this is possible mainly because the speed of evolution of grammatical forms varies in different localities of Xiang. For instance, in Archaic Chinese, there exists a contrast between attributive and nominalizer, and this contrast can still be found in a few Xiang localities, though it has been lost in most localities.
The synchronic study of the Xiang dialects in this book consists of not only the analyses of the modern data of Xiang, but also the comparative study of Xiang with Mandarin as well as other dialects surrounding Xiang. As to its synchronic study demonstrated in this book, I find that the author is much influenced by the research methods adopted by the Chinese linguists in Hunan Normal University. The typical characteristics shown by the above-mentioned linguists in their study of the Xiang dialects are that they tend to combine the synchronic study with the diachronic study. It is true that this method has a lot of advantages in revealing the evolution picture of a dialect, but its description of the synchronic data may not satisfy those linguists who are more interested in the grammatical facts of the Xiang dialects from the perspective of theoretical linguistics and linguistic typology. For instance, its discussion of interrogative pronouns does not include a description of the facts related to the indefinite use of them. Hence, one cannot know from this book whether those interrogative pronouns can be used as indefinite pronouns, or under what conditions they can be used as indefinite pronouns. One also cannot find from the discussion of passive constructions the relevant facts concerning the retained object phenomenon in the Xiang dialects or the syntactic difference between Xiang and Mandarin with respect to passives. For instance, in Mandarin, the following sentence is grammatical:
John bei tufei sha le fuqin John PSV bandits kill ASP father Lit: 'John was killed father by the bandits.'
But, according to my knowledge of the Xiang dialects, not all of them allow the occurrence of the retained object like the one above in their passive constructions. Another important aspect of Chinese grammar that is not explored in its description of the Xiang dialects is the topic- comment constructions that characterize Chinese, known as a topic- prominent language. Although the Xiang dialects share many similarities with the Wu dialects as both are southern dialects, they may not have the kind of topic or sub-topic structures in the Wu dialects as discussed in Liu (2003) and Xu and Liu (1998). If this is true, then it will become a very interesting research issue from the typological point of view.
As the first comprehensive study of the Xiang dialects, the book offers an excellent survey of the Xiang grammar in different localities. It benefits not only in its comprehensive overview, but also in its demonstration of the grammaticalization path of function words as exhibited in different Xiang localities. Given this, some minor restrictions are not an issue.
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jianhua Hu is Professor of Linguistics at the Department of Linguistics, Hunan University. His research interests include syntax, semantics, Chinese linguistics, language acquisition, and linguistic typology.