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Seminar: Reanalysis of WAIT verbs in central sinitic languages - Hilary Chappell, 8 July

Australian National University

Date: 4 July 2016

Reanalysis of Wait verbs in Central Sinitic languages: The formation of causative and passive morphology

Hilary Chappell, Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l’Asie orientale Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris & Shanghai Jiao Tong University

When: 3.30-5pm, Fri 8 July

Where: Engma Room (5019), HC Coombs Building, ANU

Powerpoint presentation


In an area of central China, straddling Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, an unusual lexical field has been identified as a main source of causative and passive morphology: this is the field of wait verbs. – One and the same morpheme is used as a causative verb in permissive causative constructions of the periphrastic type and in passive constructions in a large number of Sinitic languages and dialects belonging to this area. While a similar relationship is well-attested in the case of give verbs for Sinitic and Southeast Asian languages, it has only recently begun to receive attention in the case of wait.

In addition, these causative and passive constructions can be shown to be diachronically related through a series of reanalyses, involving semantic change and grammaticalization. The two kinds of constructions are formed with the aid of erstwhile wait verbs which respectively introduce the causee noun phrase in the causative and the agent noun phrase in the passive.

1. Complex predicate construction      NPAgentLexical verb­wait – NounPatient – Verb Phrase

2. Causative pivot construction          NPCauserCausative verb <wait – NounCausee – Verb Phrase

3. Passive construction                     NPPatient – [Preposition <wait – NounAgent]PP – Verb Phrase

The semantic and syntactic changes behind this reanalysis will be examined with respect to data from a range of contemporary Sinitic languages for wait verbs, including historical data from Late Medieval Chinese (7th-13th centuries) and data from rarer sources including both Early Wu Chinese (16th – 19th century) and Early Southern Min (16th– 19th century). These issues will be explored from the perspectives of typology, the East and Southeast Asian linguistic area, and diachronic change.

Keywords: wait verbs, reanalysis, grammaticalization, permissive causatives, passives, derivational morphology, Sinitic, Southeast Asian languages

Hilary Chappell is currently Chair Professor in Linguistic Typology of East Asian Languages at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, an appointment she took up in 2005 after teaching in the Linguistics Department at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia for 18 years. She has also served as the Director of the research centre, Centre de Recherches Linguistiques sur l’Asie Orientale (CRLAO), and its Deputy Director, from 2006-2008.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University