Indefinite markers, grammaticalization, and language contact phenomena in Chinese

Alan Lane Wong


Grammaticalization and language contact are often treated separately, suggesting that these are two distinct, divergent phenomena (Heine & Kuteva, 2003). This however, is known not to be the case. The grammaticalization of an indefinite marker, for instance, can occur due to language contact or be hastened by it (Moravcsik, 2013:200). Contrary to assumptions of many grammarians working in Chinese linguistics, recent work on Standard Chinese (e.g. Chen 2003, Huang 1999) argues that Chinese makes use of determiners. However, few explanations have been given as to why this development has taken place. I suggest that contact with English has encouraged the grammaticalization of the indefinite marker, yi 'one' + CLASSIFIER. More specifically, the translation of English texts into Chinese has contributed to the development of an indefinite marker in Chinese (Hsu 1994).


grammaticalization; language contact; Chinese; indefinite article

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Copyright (c) 2016 Alan Lane Wong

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