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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 comparative construction in Sinitic languages: Synchronic and diachronic variation

The comparative construction in Sinitic languages: Synchronic and diachronic variation

(p.134) 6 The comparative construction in Sinitic languages: Synchronic and diachronic variation
Diversity in Sinitic Languages

Hilary M. Chappell

Alain Peyraube

Oxford University Press

Synchronically, to express a comparative of inequality, two comparative construction types predominate in Sinitic languages: the Surpass and the Compare types. While the Type I Compare comparative is synchronically predominant in Sinitic languages, the distribution of the Type II Surpass comparative is much more widespread than has been previously supposed. Diachronically, the comparative of inequality in Archaic and Pre-Medieval Chinese belongs to Type II Surpass in terms of its structure, with the comparative marker being YÚ于‎ ‘to, at’. Starting in the Late Medieval period (seventh–thirteenth centuries), we also find a comparative construction belonging to Type I, with BĬ‎比‎ < ‘to compare’ as the comparative marker which was later to become the main form in Northern Chinese. In Southern Sinitic, however, where Type I Compare had not yet been adopted, the Surpass verb GUÒ過‎ (过‎) had time to grammaticalize into a comparative marker and to replace those others used in these Type II head-marking structures. This chapter argues that this is a language-internal development which would be difficult to attribute to any contact-induced grammaticalization.

Keywords:   inequality comparative, Sinitic, Archaic Chinese, Medieval Chinese, contact-induced grammaticalization, Surpass verb, Compare verb

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