Award Recipient: Dr. Carine Yuk-man Yiu (姚玉敏)
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Book Title: The Typology of Motion Events: an empirical study of Chinese Dialects. Published by De Gruyter, Berlin, 2014
The position of Mandarin and other Sinitic languages in a typological dichotomy of verb-framed vs. satellite-framed languages has been a topic of considerable controversy since Talmy (2000). This book contributes to the debates by a comparative study in both synchronic and diachronic perspectives. It examines the encoding of motion events in five contemporary Sinitic languages (Mandarin, Wu, Hakka, Min, Cantonese) and unearths general patterns of variation among them in their use of verb-framing or satellite-framing strategies to code directional expressions. It also offers a detailed study of motion events in the recent history of these languages, based on colloquial textual data of the 19th and early 20th centuries, showing that they attest to the claim that Chinese has been changing from a verb-framed type to a more satellite-framed type of language, but at different rates in different Sinitic languages and their dialects.
The reviewers and members of the Board of Directors have found Dr. Yiu’s study to be highly deserving of a lfk book award as it considerably deepens our understanding of motion event types in typological and diachronic perspective, with important original findings. The book is also praised for the rich empirical evidence it has gathered for the conclusions reached, and the innovative approach of using both contemporary and recent historical data to demonstrate historical change in progress across different languages or dialects. It is one of the first large-scale typological studies of Sinitic languages on a particular syntactic construction in great detail. In addition to achieving its goals, the rich results of Dr. Yiu’s study also shed new light on the issue of word order and contact-induced grammatical change, and have positive new methodological implications for the micro- and meso-comparative study of language variation and change.