CE27 - Culture, créations, patrimoine

Language contact in Northern China – Historical and Typological perspectives – LCNC

Language contact in Northern China – Historical and Typological perspectives

We will study linguistic changes due to language contact in the history of the Chinese language. Many researches have been carried out on contact phenomena, but they have mainly been devoted to inflectional languages, and not to isolating languages such as Chinese. Three periods will be covered from the Middle Ages to the present day. A linguistic and sociolinguistic analysis of will allow us to propose new hypotheses and refine general theories on language contact on language contacts.

Systematic and comprehensive study of contact-induced grammatical change during the history of Chinese

This project proposes to carry out a systematic and comprehensive study of contact-induced grammatical change during the history of Chinese, through investigating the abundance of available Chinese linguistic data. The Chinese language has undergone prolonged contact between languages of very different grammatical types throughout its history with these contacts impacting on Chinese linguistic development both synchronically and diachronically. Consequently, any study of contact involving Chinese cannot fail to be significant and valuable. <br />Three periods will be covered: (i) Altaic-Mongolian influence [1000-1400]; (ii) Altaic-Manchu influence [1700-1900]; (iii) Altaic influence on Northwestern (Chinese dialects and/or) Sinitic languages (Modern period). The contact situations during these three periods are very different in terms of contact intensity, language policies, and other social and political factors.<br />The aim of this project is to contribute some relevant solutions to some of the questions concerning the differences between Northern and Southern Chinese. We will contribute to a better understanding of the areal diffusion and the typological characteristics that distinguish Northern Chinese languages from the Sinitic languages of Southern, Central and South-eastern China. Furthermore, this study will examine the nature of the languages in Yuan baihua and Northwestern Sinitic languages since some scholars have considered them as good examples of ‘creoles’ or ‘pidgins’ and perhaps even ‘mixed languages’ or ‘intertwining languages’. <br />By comparing and contrasting these socially and linguistically different contacts, and by thoroughly investigating and analyzing the enormous amount of Chinese documents available for these three periods, research never before undertaken, we hope to propose hypotheses and refine general theories on language contact. This will be based on the cases observed in the Chinese language to complement or challenge the existing assumptions and theories on language contact.

The team members will conduct a macroscopic survey as well as a detailed study concerning the texts and documents from the 14th century onwards that contain atypical Chinese syntactic features and also the Northwestern dialects that were and are still in contact with Altaic languages. The methods include the following:
(1) Identify, collect and sift the data for language contact study of the Yuan and Qing periods.
(2) Conduct comparative studies of the Sinitic languages in Tangwang, Gangou, Linxia, Wutun and neighbouring Altaic languages. We will then be able to observe and trace the linguistic changes these four languages have undergone.
(3) Compare and contrast words and sentences in the documents that feature the juxtaposition of either Mongolian and Chinese, or Manchurian and Chinese, since these documents display clear and direct evidence of the influence of Mongolian or Manchurian on the Chinese language.
(4) Conduct a comparative study of the various contact-induced phenomena. After having thoroughly studied the data for every single language contact case named in this project, we will compare the various layers of linguistic phenomena found in historical documents as well as in the outcomes of field work on modern Northwestern Sinitic languages.

The expected results will come from the investigations carried out on the following points:
1. Word order change in different periods of Chinese history. Was there a change from SVO (subject-verb-object) to SOV in Yuan and Qing vernacular Chinese? Have the NW Sinitic languages always been SOV or have they become so due to linguistic contact with the Altaic languages?
2. The appearance and the use of shi as a copula. We will confirm that the original source of the copula shi is indeed the demonstrative pronoun shi 'this' and will mainly try to explain why this shi is found in final position both in Yuan-Qing vernacular texts and in NO dialects.
3. The emergence of new comparative constructions in Northern Chinese, involving the comparative morpheme bi in the adjunct position, and no longer a comparative morpheme (yu, ru, si, etc.) in the post-verbal/argument position. Special attention will be paid to the medieval period when the comparatives of superiority and the equative (comparative of equality) constructions were ambiguous, a situation that is also found today in some Northwestern dialects.
4. The emergence and development of TAM (tense, aspect, modality) markers. Northwestern Sinitic languages have a TAM system quite different from Standard Mandarin. Is it directly influenced by neighboring Altaic languages or can the source traced back to the Yuan baihua?
5. The historical development of linking the relative clause to the head noun by a relational marker. The standard relative marker di/de that comes from the Classical (Archaic) Chinese zhi (Wang Li’s hypothesis) or zhe (Lü Shuxiang’s hypothesis) or both zhi and zhe (Mei Tsu-lin) has quite special uses in the Yuan-Qing baihua, and also in Nortwestern Sinitic.
6. The emergence and disappearance of
different case marking systems in Northwestern Chinese - and to what extent – are they linked to the existence of some case markers in the spoken Chinese of the Yuan and Qing dynasties?
7. The emergence and development of localizers (fangweici) in place words.
Are localizers, that did not really emerge before the Late Han period (2nd – 3rd c. AD), postpositions or suffixes? How can we explain their derived uses from expressing the relative position of objects to causative suffixes such as shang/shangtou in Yuan/Qing baihua?

By comparing these three language contact cases between Chinese and Altaic languages, we aim to find what they share in common and what sets them apart in various aspects related to language change. The comparative study will provide the grounds for us to revisit the hypotheses and theories we have made and to propose new insights. In this project, it will be necessary to take into account the distinction between shift-induced interference, in which imperfect learning plays a role, and contact-induced changes in which imperfect learning plays no role as discussed in Thomason (2001). We will also give special attention to a common and interesting phenomenon whereby new grammatical meanings and structures arising through language contact are patently a mixture of borrowed and native forms resulting in what is called hybridized constructions. We will also refer to and discuss contact-induced grammaticalization (CIG) and some of the models which have been put forward in previous studies, such as the contact transfer model outlined in Heine & Kuteva (2005) and Heine (2008). We will also discuss whether concepts such as “metatypy” proposed by Ross (2007) for languages belonging to distinct language families, for which extensive contact trigger a “remodeling” to the extent that they show morpheme-to-morpheme inter-translatability, while keeping distinct lexical material inherited from their original genetic stock. Ross (2007) defines metatypy as “The diachronic process whereby the morphosyntactic constructions of one of the languages of a bilingual speech community are restructured on the model of the constructions of the speakers’ other language, such that the constructions of the replica language come to more closely match those of the model language in both meaning and morphosyntax.” To sum up, we will use not only the standard techniques in grammaticalization theory, expounded particularly in the works of Hopper and Traugott (1993, 2003), Harris and Campbell (1995), Heine and Kuteva (2007), Peyraube (2017a), but will meld these with functionalist and typological approaches to language description.

(a) We will endeavor to make available to generalists working on language-contact issues
outside the Chinese field the data and the facets of the ongoing debate. This includes work to make available basic data about the seven features discussed in the project, with a fair amount of data from representative corpora (including fieldwork data and historical documents), for which glossing and translation will be added. Some of our outputs which we consider will have the highest impact on the ongoing debate on language contact and contact-induced change in the linguistic community will be published in journals such as Journal of Language Contact (Brill), Linguistic Typology (De Gruyter), Diachronica (J. Benjamins).
(b) We will also publish in major Chinese journals, which enjoy a large and highly specialized readership, in journals dedicated to language history, non-Sinitic minority languages, and general journals such as Zhongguo Yuwen, Fangyan, Lishi yuyanxue yanjiu, etc.
(c) Our research output will be useful for specialists working on languages belonging to the neighboring language families (Mongolic, Turcik, Tibetic…). These three types of readership will require distinct strategies of publication.

This project proposes to carry out a systematic and comprehensive study of contact-induced grammatical change during the history of Chinese, through investigating the abundance of available Chinese linguistic data. The Chinese language has undergone prolonged contact between languages of very different grammatical types throughout its history with these contacts impacting on Chinese linguistic development both synchronically and diachronically. Consequently, any study of contact involving Chinese cannot fail to be significant and valuable.
During the past few decades, a significant body of literature has been published on the subject of language contact and its influence on language change, but it has primarily focused on inflectional languages and agglutinative languages, as opposed to isolating or analytic languages such as Chinese. Three periods will be covered: (i) Altaic-Mongolian influence [1000-1400]; (ii) Altaic-Manchu influence [1700-1900]; (iii) Altaic influence on Northwestern (Chinese dialects and/or) Sinitic languages (Modern period). The contact situations during these three periods are very different in terms of contact intensity, language policies, and other social and political factors.
The aim of this project is to revisit and contribute some relevant solutions to some of the questions and issues raised by a good number of scholars with respect to the differences between Northern and Southern Chinese, especially the geographical distribution of various typological features in both varieties. Likewise, we will contribute to a better understanding of the areal diffusion and the typological characteristics that distinguish Northern Chinese languages from the Sinitic languages of Southern, Central and South-eastern China. Furthermore, this study will examine the nature of the languages in Yuan baihua and Northwestern Sinitic languages since some scholars have considered them as good examples of ‘creoles’ or ‘pidgins’ and perhaps even ‘mixed languages’ or ‘intertwining languages’. Thus, one of the main objectives of this project is also to address this issue in depth, discussing whether or not this hypothesis is well grounded. By thoroughly investigating and analysing the enormous amount of Chinese documents available from these three periods, research that has never been undertaken before, we will be enable to revise and enrich the present theories and methodologies of language contact studies such as CI (contact-induced) transfers, CI grammaticalization and analogical replication.
By comparing and contrasting these socially and linguistically different contacts, and by thoroughly investigating and analyzing the enormous amount of Chinese documents available for these three periods, research never before undertaken, we hope to propose hypotheses and refine general theories on language contact. This will be based on the cases observed in the Chinese language to complement or challenge the existing assumptions and theories on language contact.

Project coordination

Redouane Djamouri (Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'asie orientale)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

CRLAO Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'asie orientale
LIDILEM LINGUISTIQUE ET DIDACTIQUE DES LANGUES ETRANGERES ET MATERNELLES

Help of the ANR 322,712 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2018 - 42 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés

 

 

ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter