Home > Catalogue > Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie orientale > 58 | 2022 > On Structural Particles in Sinitic Languages: Typology and Diachrony

On Structural Particles in Sinitic Languages: Typology and Diachrony

Giorgio Francesco Arcodia    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



In the Chinese linguistic tradition, the term ‘structural particle(s)’ (jiégòu zhùcí 结构助词) is used to refer to functional elements that mainly act as markers of adnominal modification, nominalisation, adverbial modification and in the so-called verb complement constructions. In Standard Mandarin, the three commonly used structural particles are all realised as /tə/, but they are written with different characters (的, 地 and 得), which somehow reflect their distinct origins. However, the same functions are mapped onto different markers in other Sinitic languages, and each of the functions listed above may be associated to more than one construction. In this paper, we provide an overview of the range of variation in the domain of structural particles in Sinitic, based on the analysis of a convenience sample of 77 Chinese dialects. We highlight some areal and genealogical trends in the distribution of these forms, and we discuss some hypotheses on their origins and on their evolution: specifically, we focus on the markers of adnominal and adverbial modification. We argue that markers of adnominal and adverbial modification may sometimes arise from different sources and undergo formal merger, due to structural analogy and/or to phonetic similarity.

June 30, 2022
April 22, 2022
Feb. 25, 2022

Keywords: SiniticAdnominal modificationStructural particlesAdverbial modificationChinese

Copyright: © 2022 Giorgio Francesco Arcodia. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.