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The constructionalization of the Chinese cleft construction

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This paper addresses the emergence and development of the Chinese cleft construction, with particular attention to the period from Early Archaic Chinese through Late Medieval Chinese. Prototype copulas are typically of the form [NP SHI NP], are predicational or specificational, and cue information focus. We trace the gradual development over time of copula clefts in addition to prototype copula constructions. A key factor in their development is the use in Medieval Chinese of nominalizations in post-copula position. Copula clefts typically have the form [NP SHI XP DE] and cue both specificational and contrastive meaning. The study is a contribution to the developing field of constructionalization by making more explicit the way in which individual constructional changes contribute sequentially to constructionalization. It also demonstrates one way in which a complex contrastive cleft construction may come into being.
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Keywords: analogy; cleft; constructionalization; contrast; copula; focus; history of Chinese; reanalysis; specification

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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  • International Journal sponsored by the Foundation "Foundations of Language"
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