Where do they come from?
The origin of cleft sentences and related problems in Mandarin Chinese
Much work has been done to explore the origin and functions of the Chinese “Shi…De” construction, but there are still some problems left unsolved. Firstly, there is no consensus on what a syntactic category the “Shi…De” construction belongs to. Second, no agreement has been reached with regard to the functions of De and Shi in the “Shi…De” construction. Third, the reason why Chinese chooses “Shi…De” to assume the function of focusing is not clear. Moreover, though previous studies have discussed the origin and the diachronic distribution of this construction, the mechanism for its generation or its genesis is left untouched. This paper discussed the Chinese “Shi…De” construction from a synchronic perspective. The findings include: (1) The Chinese “Shi…De” constructions are essentially assertive sentences which relate to the grammaticalization of Shi; (2) De as an empty word is a particle at the phrase level and a functor together with a Shi at the sentence level; (3) The “Shi…De” construction is endowed with its own semantic function; (4) The mechanism for forming Chinese cleft sentences is analogy.
Keywords: “ShiDe” construction, assertive sentences, origin, analogy
Published online: 03 April 2015
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