Evidence of Language Contact: Source Prepositional Phrases in Taiwanese Southern Min

Yen-Ting Lin

Abstract


Evidence of Language Contact: Data from source Prepositional Phrases in Taiwanese Southern Min

     This paper presents a new corpus-based study on the distributional pattern of source Prepositional Phrases (source PPs) in Taiwanese Southern Min (TSM), as evidence of contact with Austronesian languages. Literature on language contact suggests that while contact-induced changes affect the less powerful/prestigious language, effects also occur in the inverse direction due to imperfect second language acquisition (LaPolla 2001, Chappell 2006). Due to its geographical proximity to the Austronesian language territory, Taiwan serves as a linguistic laboratory for studying language contact. Unlike other Chinese spoken varieties, TSM has contact with Austronesian languages.

Evidence & Explanation: A TSM concordance (Iûnn 2003) used as a database, captures the dominant pattern of source PPs, marked by àn ‘from/via’ and tuì/uì ‘from/via/towards’. The preposition àn ‘from/via’ is commonly shared by Southern Min dialects. The source PP àn tó-uī from/via where’ either precedes the verb kiânn ‘to go’in (1a), or follows in (1b), with the same interpretation. Despite its flexible order, the àn-phrases display a strong [PP-V] tendency (94% of tokens). The [V-PP] order in (1b), which is not reported historically in any other Southern Min dialect or Sinitic language, is distinctively rare, suggesting possible contact with Austronesian languages.

(1a)

 

(1b)

2sg

àn            tó-uī

from/via  where

kiânn

go

 

 

lâi/khì    ?

come/go

2sg

 

kiânn

go

àn            tó-uī

from/via  where

lâi/khì    ?

come/go

‘Where are you from/via?’

 

     Another preposition, tuì/uì ‘from/via/towards’, dating back to the historical text Li Jing Ji (1566) in Southeast China, has only been observed in TSM. (2a) instantiates a [PP-V] pattern, while (2b) displays a new [V-PP] pattern. Tuì-phrases occur more frequently with [PP-V] order (about 65%), and with [V-PP], the spatial NPs are classified as source in 8% of the instances. (There were not morphological selection properties inherent to the verbs which did not trigger the variation, with different verbs selecting for PP-V and some verb selecting for V-PP).

(2a)

 

(2b)

lin

2pl

tuì                             tôo-su-kuán

from/via/towards      library

kiânn

go

 

lâi/khì   

come/go

lin

2pl

 

kiânn

go

tuì                       tôo-su-kuán

from/via/towards         library            

lâi/khì   

come/go

‘You (pl.) walked from/via/towards the library.’

                 

     The emergence of this [V-PP] order may be attributed to contact with Austronesian languages based on their distributional pattern and contact history in Taiwan. The Austronesian languages, Atayal, Rukai, Puyuma, and Siraya exhibit a [V-PP] pattern (Adelaar 2011; Dryer, personal communication). Starting from the 16th century, sinocization through education and intermarriage with Chinese men had accelerated the acquisition of Southern Min by native speakers of Austronesian languages (Shepherd 1993).  

Theoretical Implications: The positional variation of source PPs in TSM demonstrates an unusual typological pattern within its own language family, and provides evidence for additional contact. It also provides evidence for a process of contact-induced change during which the structure of the target language may be changed due to imperfect second language acquisition. Finally, the empirical investigation in the corpus supports the perspective that both an areal and a diachronic explanation may account for diversity in the synchronic data (Dryer 2003, 2006). 


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/exabs.v0i0.3010