A historical and sociolinguistic approach to language change in Mandarin Chinese: Corpus evidence for the development of YOU-MEI-YOU

Wenfeng Li, Purdue University


This dissertation introduces corpus-based analyses of a syntactic construction in Standard Mandarin, YOU-MEI-YOU (or ‘have-not-have’)+VP, which is used to form perfective questions. The purpose of the study is to (i) find evidence for the claim that preverbal YOU-MEI-YOU, i.e. YOU-MEI-YOU found in the new construction, is grammaticalizing into an auxiliary unit, and (ii) to investigate its historical development, including the stage of development that it has reached and its distribution over time. Using data from two databases, the present study first looks at the percentage of preverbal YOU-MEI-YOU conveying a certain grammatical meaning, i.e. sentence type and aspect. Next, the study compares the percentage of three linguistic features of this construction, namely, the grammatical meaning(s) conveyed by preverbal YOU-MEI-YOU, the general types of complement it takes, and the specific types of VP complement it takes, between different 20-year periods. The study also makes a comparison of the frequency of use of preverbal YOU-MEI-YOU between different 10-year periods. The results of the first type of analysis show that preverbal YOU-MEI-YOU helps to form constructions conveying either grammatical meaning in the majority of the clauses, lending support to the claim that it is grammaticalizing into an auxiliary unit. The diachronic comparisons of the three features of the new construction indicate that preverbal YOU-MEI-YOU has reached Stage III as outlined in Heine (1993). The comparison of the frequency of use between different time periods shows no upward trend in the use of (auxiliary) preverbal YOU-MEI-YOU.^




Atsushi Fukada, Purdue University, John Sundquist, Purdue University.

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