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Institute for Chinese Studies Lecture: "The Postverbal Constraint across Chinese Dialects"


Thursday, January 09, 2020, 4:00PM - 5:15PM


The Institute for Chinese Studies presents, "The Postverbal Constraint across Chinese Dialects" by Min Zhang, associate professor in Humanities at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

As an SVO language, Chinese exhibits a cluster of typologically unusual traits known collectively as the “Postverbal Constraint.” Unlike other VO languages, where VP complements and adjuncts are positioned canonically after the verb, Chinese tends to restrict more than one phrasal constituent from occurring postverbally (compare *tā xǐ yīfú dé hěn gànjìng and tā bǎ yīfú xǐ-dé hěn gànjìng ‘He washed the clothes very clean.’). Over recent four decades the Postverbal Constraint has attracted substantial research effort, particularly by generative grammarians and typologists working on Chinese; nonetheless it remains puzzling why and how Chinese ends up with this gross deviation from typological naturalness. This talk presents some new evidence gathered from recent large-scale survey on Chinese dialects, which indicates that the Constraint manifests itself as a scalar gradation across Sinitic varieties both geographically and syntactically, neatly in proportion to the degree of historical and current exposure to northern non-Sinitic SOV languages. The data further reveals that the constraint-continuum is not driven by simple borrowing, but formed via a series of internal adaptive adjustments that are externally motivated.

This event is free and open to the public.

This event is co-sponsored by the Graduate Association of Chinese Linguistics (GACL), the Council on Student Affairs (CSA), the Department of Linguistics, and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. 

Location : 174 Mendenhall Lab
Contact : East Asian Studies Center

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