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The hybrid syntactic typology of Sinitic languages


This project proposes to carry out the first large scale investigation into the typology of Sinitic or Chinese languages, broadening its horizons beyond Standard Mandarin to consider the major parameters in the grammatical makeup of this language taxon with respect to the neighbouring language families of East and Southeast Asia. The principal objective is to examine and seek explanations for the apparent hybrid typology of Sinitic languages which reveal a perplexing mixture of head-final and head-initial features and consequently pose several striking counterexamples to classic Greenbergian word order correlations. The theoretical issue involved is to question accounts which purely rely upon areal diffusion to explain this, without considering language-internal development, in particular syntactic change, as an interacting component. Complicating research in this field is the fact that Standard Mandarin is generally the main, if not, only point of reference for Sinitic languages in typological studies in the West, while until recently it persisted as the primary object of analysis in Chinese linguistics in general. Thus, a macroscopic survey of the ten branches of Sinitic is first proposed to describe their fundamental syntactic properties and word order correlations in detail. Second, the project sets out to challenge and refine the hypothesis of a North-South typological dichotomy for Sinitic languages based on areal principles and advocated by Hashimoto and Norman. To this purpose, the research plan also includes a comprehensive analysis of the grammar of Waxiang, a language spoken in remote northwest Hunan province and chosen to represent the transitional zone of Chinese languages in central China . Significantly, this language shows characteristics of an intermediate nature between northern and southern Sinitic , expected to assist in elucidating the issue of hybrid typological features.

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54 bd raspail
75270 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Hilary Margaret Chappell (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Samira Ben Touhami (Ms.)
EU contribution
No data

Beneficiaries (1)