On a possible convergence area in Northern China

In: Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale
Giorgio Francesco ARCODIA Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia Department of Asian and North African Studies Italy Venice

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The received view that the differences among Sinitic languages are mostly limited to their phonology and, to a lesser extent, to the lexicon (Chao 1968), has been challenged in recent years, with plenty of studies showing that Chinese ‘dialects’ are, indeed, diverse at all levels, including morphology and (morpho-)syntax (see Chappell 2015a for an overview). Some major differences within the Sinitic branch follow areal patterns, in which contact is often claimed to play a crucial role. In our contribution, we would like to propose that there is an area within Northern China, spread over the Shanxi, Henan, Hebei, and Shandong provinces, in which we find Sinitic languages possessing some features not seen (or, at least, uncommon) elsewhere. These include: 1. reduced/nonconcatenative morphology (see Arcodia 2013, 2015; Lamarre 2015); 2. object markers based on speech act verbs (see Chappell 2013); and 3. structural particles with an l-initial (see Chen A. 2013, a.o.). Based on our own survey of a sample of 96 dialects, we shall discuss the distribution of these features, as well as their possible origins.

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