Tense / Aspect markers in Mandarin and Xiang dialects, and their contact

Tense / Aspect markers in Mandarin and Xiang dialects, and their contact
Author: Minglang Zhou
Publisher: Sino-Platonic Papers
Publication date: 1998
Number of pages: 21
Format / Quality: PDF / excellent
Size: 1,17 MB

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Minglang Zhou, ”Tense/Aspect Markers in Mandarin and Xiang Dialects”, Sino-Platonic Papers, 83 (October 1998)
Tense/ Aspect markers in Mandarin and Xiang dialects, and their contact*
O. Introduction
Minglang Zhou
University of Colorado at Boulder
* This is a revised version of my paper “A Comparison of Tense/aspect Markers in Mandarin and Xiang Dialects”
presented at the Conference on Local Languages & Local Cultures of China at the University of Pennsylvania from
April 26 to 27, 1997. I have benefitted from the participants’ comments that stimulated me to do a survey of the
actual use of tense/aspect markers in Mandarin by Xiang speakers in Changsha in the summer of 1997. I appreciate
Dr. Victor H. Mair’s effort in organizing this conference as well as inviting me, with financial support. to attend it.
0. Introduction
The differences among Chinese dialects may be so little that speakers of two dialects have no difficulties in understanding each other or may be so large that mutual intelligibility does not exist at all between speakers of two dialects. However, educated Chinese dialect speakers have used the “same” written language for about two thousand years, no matter what dialects they speak. For this obvious reason, studies in traditional Chinese philology as well as in modem Chinese linguistics generally focus on the phonological differences among Chinese dialects, whereas little attention is paid to the syntactic differences among those dialects (cf. Zhan 1993).
To explore syntactic differences among Chinese dialects and their influence on each other, this paper examines the similarities and differences in tense/aspect markers between Mandarin and Xiang dialects , to show that the syntactic differences regarding tense/aspect markers may be as large as those between two different languages, and to evaluate the use of tense/aspect markers in Mandarin by Xiang speakers, with the consideration that all educated Xiang speakers speak Mandarin sometimes and write in Mandarin at all times.
This paper is organized in five sections. First, the diachronic relationship between Mandarin and Xiang dialects is briefly reviewed. Secondly, previous studies of tense/aspect system in Mandarin Chinese are also reviewed as the foundation for comparison. Thirdly, Xiang tense/aspect markers are presented in detail in comparison to those in Mandarin. Fourthly, Xiang speakers’ use of tense/aspect markers is discussed in the context of dialect contact. The paper will conclude with some observations and implications.
1. Historical relationship between Mandarin and Xiang
(1) The Development of the Old Xiang Dialect
(2) The Development of New and Old Xiang Dialects
2. A review of tense / aspect markers in Mandarin
3. Tense / aspect markers in Xiang
– Mandarin and Xiang Perfective and Perfect Aspect / Tense Markers in Comparison
– Comparison of Imperfective Markers in Mandarin and Xiang
– Comparison of Delimitative Aspect in Xiang and Mandarin
4. Variations of tense / aspect marker use in Manarin
-Results from the Survey of the Tense / Aspect Marker in Mandarin by Xiang Speakers
5. Conclusion
Appendix 1
Appendix 2: Testing materials in Xiang – Target in Mandarin
5. Conclusion
This paper begins with questions about the syntactic differences and similarities between
Mandarin and Xiang. It seems that so far as aspect/tense markers are concerned, the differences are
larger than the similarities between the two dialects, though they have a genetic relationship. In the
perfective category, two morphologically and phonologically similar markers, Ie and guo, perform
at least four temporal functions in Mandarin, while in Xiang there are four different markers., da,
ga, gada, and kelai for the same four temporal functions. In the imperfective category, Mandarin
and Xiang both have a progressive marker, but they differ in durative markers. The former has
only one, while the latter has three for distinctive temporal functions. In the delimitative category,
Mandarin and Xiang share the same approach in verb reduplication, whereas Xiang has
grammaticalized two additional areas of temporal structure and relationships between events.
Given the larger number of differences and fewer similarities in aspect/tense markers
between Mandarin and Xiang, we find that when speaking/writing Mandarin, Xiang speakers use
some aspect/tense markers differently from standard Mandarin usage, influenced by tense/aspect
markers in Xiang. In the contact between Mandarin and Xiang, there are changes, as expected in
any language contact situation. Further study is needed to investigate to what extent Xiang
influences Mandarin and to what extent Mandarin influences Xiang.
The fmdings and observations from this study raise some more general questions about the
relationship between Mandarin and Chinese dialects: “How do dialects influence Mandarin?”,
“How are changes in Mandarin related to dialects?”, and “How does Mandarin influence dialects?”.
These questions are of great importance at a time when Mandarin is spreading at a rapid rate
throughout China (cf. Zhou, forthcoming).

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