Disharmony in harmony with diachronic stability: The case of Chinese
Redouane Djamouri, Waltraud Paul
August 2018

Chinese is an intriguing case of syntactic stability. Since the earliest available documents (13th c. BC) up to today, it has displayed SVO order in combination with a head final NP as well as - in subsequent stages - other phenomena said to be typical of SOV languages, such as postpositions (since 1st c. BC) and a head-final CP (since 5th c. BC). This contradicts the received wisdom in the literature that highly ‘disharmonic’ stages are unstable and liable to change towards a (more) ‘harmonic’ one. Taking Chinese as a starting point, the assumption that the concept of stability itself - although inaccessible to the child acquirer and only observable with hindsight by the linguist - is an inbuilt part of human language and hence of universal grammar, is shown to be wrong.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004147
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To appear (2019) in The Determinants of Diachronic Stability, Miriam Bouzouita, Anne Breitbarth, Lieven Danckaert & Melissa Farasyn (eds.). Amsterdam: Benjamins
keywords: pre-archaic chinese, (dis)harmony, word order, svo, sov, diachronic syntax, semantics, syntax
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