Revisiting the alignment typology of ditransitive constructions in Chinese dialects

in Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics

With data from over a thousand regional varieties of Chinese, the paper presents a comprehensive survey of ditransitive constructions in Chinese dialects and their alignment types, focusing in particular on delving in system-internal and external factors correlating with the observed typological distinctions. It starts with questioning the validity of one of Hashimoto’s (1976) well-known parameters for North-South typological classification of Chinese – i.e., the double object construction (DOC) takes the form of V-OR-OT in Northern Chinese and V-OT-OR in Southern Chinese, the latter also known as the ‘Inverted DOC’ (IDOC), – based on the fact that two distinct groups of Southern Chinese, i.e., Min and Southwestern Mandarin spoken in Southwestern China, tally unexpectedly with Northern Chinese and only allow the form of V-OR-OT. It is subsequently found that the distinction is strongly correlated with the typology of the generalpurpose verb of giving (the verb ‘to give’). All dialects with DOC possess an underived ditransitive verb ‘to give’, whereas those with IDOC in general lack such as verb, using instead the combination of a monotransitive handling verb and an allative preposition, i.e., the dative construction in the form of ‘take OT to OR’, to express the ‘give’-type ditransitive event. This finding naturally leads to the following conclusions: (1) it is the loss of the verb ‘to give’ that triggers the loss of DOC in the latter group of dialects, which consequently renders the dative construction as the only ‘give’-type ditransitive construction in such dialects; (2) the IDOC is in nature an indirective construction (dative construction) with merely the dative marker left out, and the driving force of the omission is nothing but a high usage frequency of the indirective construction.

It is further observed that the English-like dative alternation between the DOC and the dative construction existing in Chinese for thousands of years since Archaic Chinese is only preserved in a small fraction of its modern varieties. The majority of Chinese dialects have undergone a typological shift from the mixed type to either the DOC-type (predominantly Northern Chinese) or the indirectivetype (predominantly Southern Chinese), motivated by the systerm-external factor (Altaization of Northern Chinese in the former case) and the systerm-internal factor (loss of the verb ‘to give’ in the latter case) respectively

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Revisiting the alignment typology of ditransitive constructions in Chinese dialects

in Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics

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