Contrary to many Chinese linguists who regard the historical development of the conjunctions rán and rán'ér as identical, I argue that the two are in fact distinct. Through a thorough analysis of occurrences of these conjunctions in twelve texts from the Archaic and Mediaeval Chinese periods, I show that ran, originally a verbal demonstrative occurring between clauses that are not semantically coherent, grammaticalized into a conjunction under the influence of the context. The conjunction rán'ér shows a distinct pathway of grammaticalization: it originally derived from instances of collocation of the demonstrative rán and the conjunction ér, and underwent lexicalization to be reanalyzed as a word. I argue that the context is very important in the process of grammaticalization of the two conjunctions.
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