Lexicalization of intensifiers
Two X-shi constructions in spoken Mandarin
The present study investigates the lexicalization of zhenshi and shizaishi in Taiwan Mandarin, showing how they originate as a fusion of an adverb and the copula/focus marker shi and further develop a non-compositional meaning through talk-in-interaction and function as right peripheral stance markers in speech. Many instances of the copula/focus marker shi in Modern Mandarin have become a word-internal element and merged with an adverb/conjunction to form an X-shi construction semantically similar to the original X. Our targets, zhenshi and shizaishi, are instantiations of this morphological trend. However, through sequence truncation and metonymic inference, the two morphological fusion cases further demonstrate lexicalization as they respectively acquire an evaluative meaning. Our study thus illustrates the emergent nature of grammar/lexicon arising from the interaction among language (syntagmatic co-occurrence), culture (communicative politeness), and cognition (pragmatic inference).
Keywords: lexicalization, Chinese morphology, pragmatic inference, sequence truncation, right peripheral stance marker
Published online: 10 January 2012