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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The rise of a high transitivity marker dao in contemporary Chinese: Co-evolvement of language and society

  • Author(s): Chen, K
  • Tao, H
  • et al.

© John Benjamins Publishing Company. Transitivity has been approached from various discourse functional points of view. In this paper, we describe the emergence in standard Chinese of a marker of high transitivity, dao 'reach, in syntactic contexts where it has not been attested before (e.g., bangzhu dao ni 'help you'). We argue that this emergence is associated with a number of factors: the semantic properties of the main verb, dialectal influences, and recent social trends towards consumerism and an emergent "yuppie" identity in contemporary Chinese urban life. We take the innovative uses of dao to be an instance of linguistic structure co-evolving with societal change.

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