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Diversity in Sinitic Languages$
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Hilary M. Chappell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198723790

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198723790.001.0001

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The semantic differentiation of demonstratives in Sinitic languages

The semantic differentiation of demonstratives in Sinitic languages

(p.81) 4 The semantic differentiation of demonstratives in Sinitic languages
Diversity in Sinitic Languages

Yujie Chen

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the common conceptual categories found in the semantic differentiation of demonstratives based on data from more than 300 Sinitic languages. While two-term systems are very common in Sinitic languages, there are also one-term, three-term, four-term, even five-term systems, aligned on the scale of distance and visibility. Notably, neutral demonstratives form a one-term system which can co-occur with other types of systems in the same language. Systems greater than three-term may be either single-layered or multi-layered, which is decided by semantic properties other than distance, such as visibility. Special morpho-phonological processes, such as lengthening, reduplication, and tone change, can be used for systems greater than the three-term type in Sinitic languages to code this new kind of differentiation. As the result of the investigation, distance is found to be the main parameter encoded by demonstrative systems in Sinitic languages.

Keywords:   demonstrative, single-layered, multi-layered, distance scale, visibility, proximal, distal, medial, morpho-phonological process

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