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Delexicalizing <i>di</bi></i>

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Abstract

This paper traces the semantic extension of the Chinese locative/spatial noun <i>di</i> (&#8216;bottom&#8217;) into a nominalizer, which further develops into a relativizer and genitive marker, and also into an adverbial subordinator and an attitudinal or stance marker. As subordinator and stance marker, <i>di</i> is generally phonetically reduced to <i>de</i>. Indeed, <i>de</i> has now largely replaced <i>di</i> in contemporary Chinese. Similar developments involving the reanalysis of head-final (i.e. clause-final) nominalizers as sentence-final mood particles are also observed in the case of Chinese nominalizer <i>zhe</i>, and are attested in other Chinese dialects as well (e.g. Cantonese <i>ge3</i> and Chaozhou <i>kai</i>). Many other verb-final languages also show similar syncretism involving head-final nominalizers being recruited for sentence-final mood marking functions.

References

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