Corpus based study of the diachronic development of [V ge X] in Chinese: a construction grammar account
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This thesis applies the construction grammar framework to a corpus-based study of the development of post-verbal ge in Chinese. Ge in Mandarin Chinese is widely considered as a general classifier (Li and Thompson 1981, Zhu 1982, Lü 1984). As a classifier, the main function of ge is to categorize the entity denoted by the following noun and enable numeral attachment. Thus, ge is typically preceded by numerals and followed by referential nouns. In a post-verbal position, when the numeral before ge is yi ‘one’, the numeral tends to be omitted. The ‘bare ge’ in post-verbal position is found co-occurring with non-referential nouns and non-nominal elements, such as predicative adjectives and verb phrases. The function of the post-verbal ge with these atypical collocations has attracted much attention in Chinese linguistic research (Zhang, 2003; Lü, 1984; Biq, 2004). One of the features of the previous research is that the researchers focus on a sub-set of post-verbal ge variations and try to provide a generalized claim about all instances of post-verbal ge used in Mandarin. Another feature is that the research focus is on ge alone and little attention has been paid to its co-texts and contexts of use. In addition, very little work has been done on the emergence of the mysterious function of post-verbal ge or the internal links between ge as a classifier and this new function. The main task of this thesis is to identify the semantic and syntactic properties of the post-verbal ge with atypical collocations and to explore how ge developed these properties in the post-verbal position. Within a construction grammar framework, the post-verbal ge with this special function and its co-texts are identified as a construction with a telic and bounded aspectual meaning. This [V ge X] construction of telic and bounded aspectual meaning is different from the classifier construction in terms of morpho-syntactic features as well as semantic and pragmatic properties. With the constructional approach, this research shows that the unit to which changes apply is not ge alone but the [V ge X] construction and the morpho-syntactic and semantic relations between these three elements have changed over time. Furthermore, the investigation into the mechanism of these changes also reveals that the development of micro-constructions of the [V ge X] construction of telic and bounded aspectual meaning occurred in a constructional network, which links different constructions with the [V ge X] schema.