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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The Order of ‘Verb-Complement’ Constructions in Taiwan Southern Min

Vol. 24 No. 3   12/1994  


The Order of ‘Verb-Complement’ Constructions in Taiwan Southern Min


Chinfa Lien









Key words

historical explanation; chronological strata; verb-complement; word order; lexical diffusion


      In sharp contrast to Taiwan Mandarin(TM) coasting an impressive array of Verb-Complements (VC), which can be immediately followed by an Object (O) Taiwan Southern Min (TSM), resists such a word order in favor of the sequence of V-O-C or O-V-C in the majority of cases. In this paper I propose a historical explanation of such a difference in word order. Previous studies show that the V-C’s as adhesive units inTM evolve from the contraction of earlier coordinat e clauses and subsequent intransitivization of two juxtaposed transitive verbs. Specifically, the intransitivization, which is responsible for the genesis of V-C’s occurs at two stages: (1) the intransitivization of the second verb and (2) the intransitivization of the first verb. There is a simple explanation for the absence of VC-O in TSM: TSM neither undergoes contraction nor intransitivization in most cases.

    TSM is uniquely rich in chronological strata, which are well attested in phonological, lexical and syntactic distinction. The word order constraint in question provides another piece of evidenced for the existence for the existence of chronological stratain syntax. In short, TSM sees the coexistence of the Han stratum, the Nan-Bei-Chao stratum and the Song stratum, as far as the variation of word order goes: the first two strata accounts for the preference of OVC and VOC over VCO in most cases, the third stratum underscores the existence of VCO in minor cases. In terms of intransitivization discussed above TSM proceeds no farther that the first period. An upshot of this is that there are definitely no instances of V-C’s realized by two successive intransitive verbs, a construction quite prevalent in TM. On a grander scaleI try to motivate a lexically dependent approach to the variability in word order; in particular, the formation of V-C’s may well be an aggregate of a protracted period of syntactic development propagated through lexical diffusion. The working out in full detail of the schedule and scenario of syntactic change of such a magnitude promises a challenging yet extremely rewarding task to be undertaken.



Author: Chinfa Lien
Genre: Article
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