LSA 233: Typology of Sinitic languages

Hilary Chappell | session 2 | TuTh 8:30 – 10:15, 106 Moffitt Hall

This course presents an investigation into the typology of Sinitic or Chinese languages.

First, the introductory lectures consider the main parameters in the morphology and syntax of this language taxon which comprises ten major branches, comparing these with the neighbouring language families of East and Southeast Asia. Syntactic constructions used to single out agents, patients, recipients and benefactives for special marking are described in this part of the course, frequently corresponding to case-marked nouns in agglutinative and synthetic languages. Other topics covered may include: structure of the noun phrase; comparative, comitative and locative constructions; systems of aspect, modality and negation.

Second, the course sets out to explore and challenge the hypothesis of a North-South typological dichotomy for Sinitic languages based on areal principles and advocated by Hashimoto and Norman, among others. To this purpose, the apparent hybrid typology of Sinitic languages is examined which reveals a perplexing mixture of head-final and head-initial features and consequently poses several striking counterexamples to the classic Greenbergian word order correlations.

The course also includes data from current fieldwork on the grammar of Waxiang, a language spoken in remote western Hunan province which has been chosen to represent the transitional zone of Chinese languages in central China. Significantly, this language shows characteristics of an intermediate nature between northern and southern Sinitic.

Required reading: Selected materials available online.

Recommended reading: Hilary Chappell, Chinese Grammar: Synchronic and diachronic perspectives, Hilary Chappell and Christine Lamarre, A Grammar and Lexicon of Hakka: Historical materials from the Basel Mission Library, Jerry Norman, Chinese, S. Robert Ramsey, The Langauges of China, and Anne Yue-Hashimoto, Comparative Chinese Dialectal Grammar: Handbook for investigators.

On reserve at Graduate Services, 208 Doe Library: Yuen-Ren Chao, A grammar of spoken Chinese, Huang Borong, Hanyu fangyan yufa leibian (Compilation of Chinese dialect types), Stephen Matthews and Virginia Yip, Cantonese reference grammar, Charles N. Li and Sandra A. Thomason, Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar, Chaofen Sun, Word-order change and grammaticalization in the history of Chinese, Chaofen Sun, Chinese, Yuan Jiahua, Hanyu fangyan gaiyao (An outline of Chinese dialects), and You Rujie, Hanyu fangyanxue daolun (Chinese dialectology).

Areas of linguistics: Syntax, semantics, and morphology; Languages of Eurasia

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