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PhD Thesis Presentation
Coordinating Conjunctions in Sinitic Languages and Beyond: Towards a New Typology


Historical linguists reached a consensus that most, if not all, coordinating conjunctions are developed from the process of grammaticalization. Nevertheless, the cross-linguistics data employed were often biased, and the lack of first-hand data would also lead to unreliable conclusions. As a result, a conclusive argument that is built on first-hand, reliable data that is applicable to Chinese and other languages is yet to be made.

The present study adopts a data-driven approach to reveal the universals and tendencies that is shared by the coordinating conjunctions in languages around the world. A cross-linguistic database consists of first-hand data (645 elements from 278 languages/dialects) and second-hand data (888 elements from 829 languages/dialects) is created and analyzed.

In Chapter 3, we investigated the polysemy of conjunctions in Yue from diachronic and synchronic perspectives. It is observed that disyllabic conjunction is a commonly attested in southern Chinese dialects; and (iii) the conjunction he 和 in Chinese originated from its [co-patient] function. In Chapter 4, the grammaticalization paths of causative verbs including han 喊, huang 喚, /ɛu55/, etc. are reconstructed.  In Chapter 5, we consolidated the data from 125 Chinese dialects and noted that liangge ‘two’ in Chinese dialects spoken in Gansu-Qinghai and Hunan-Hubei areas grammaticalized into a comitative / conjunction. This is a result of a combined force of internal and external influences (from Mongolian and Tujia).

In Chapter 6, we proposed the adjacency hypothesis which states that a comitative marker is eligible to be grammaticalized into a coordinating conjunction if it is placed between two NPs. This hypothesis is supported by 150 languages (99.3%). Furthermore, we propose that WITH-languages can be further divided into three subtypes, (i) co-agent, (ii) co-patient, and (iii) bisyndetic. We also notice that AND-languages (see Stassen 2000) tend to have a higher linguistic complexity than WITH-languages do. In Chapter 7, we found that the polysemy of [conjunctions = pluralizers] is attested in 84 languages and is more common than previous scholars claimed. Thus, we propose a new typology to classify languages into AND-, WITH-, and TWO-languages. In Chapter 8, a semantic map of conjunctions with a higher-resolution is created to better illustrate how a gram expands its function through the animacy hierarchy.

Our thesis can inspire authors of reference grammars to pay attention to the differences between co-agent markings and co-patient markings. For the study of grammaticalization, our SCAFFOLD model enables scholars to make more accurate predication and generalizations on the relationships between sources and targets of grammaticalization.

Speaker(s) Mr. Kevin K W CHAN
Date 21 Aug 2020 (Friday)
Time 2:00 pm
Venue Zoom Meeting:
Language English
Remarks Meeting ID: 935 999 89717