Volume 24, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



This study, based on the analysis of historical corpus data, investigates the diachronic development of the Mandarin modal auxiliary and establishes implications both for the grammaticalization of modals and for grammaticalization theory in general. Specifically, our study shows the following results: (1) The grammaticalization of is characterized by coalescence, paradigmaticization, obligatorification, fixation, desemanticization, decategorialization and divergence. (2) Underlying mechanisms at work are structural reanalysis, later followed by syntactic expansion and host-class expansion. (3) The grammaticalization of on the one hand confirms the diachronic path proposed in previous studies, viz., from root possibility to epistemic possibility; within the development of root possibility, however, it demonstrates a distinct path—from participant-external possibility to participant-internal possibility; it is suggested that an important driving force behind this peculiar development path is the Chinese cultural preference for collectivism. (4) The lexical source of modal is a verb-complement sequence (rather than a single full verb).

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