Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2213-8706
  • E-ISSN: 2213-8714
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This paper discusses the syntax, semantics and historical source of the new bèi XX construction in Mandarin from a cross-linguistic perspective. We argue that bèi XX is not a special construction that involves the passivization of intransitive verbs. What is passivized in it is not XX itself but a null light verb with the elementary semantics of a causative, putative or activity predicate that takes XX as its complement or adjunct. Such null light verb constructions are abundant in Old Chinese and English, though often not in passive form. Different from them, the bèi XX construction does not have a grammatical active form. We attribute this difference to the difference between synthetic and analytic languages, and account for it by a parameter in derivational timing. The appearance of the bèi XX construction marks Modern Chinese as being at the early stage of a new cycle of change. The analysis of the bèi XX construction as proposed capitalizes on the role of light verb syntax as being the real essence of grammar, and lends important support to the non-projectionist theories of syntax-lexicon mapping such as Distributed Morphology.


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