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Chinese Language · Linguistic Typology · Writing Systems · Cognitive-Functional Linguistics

​Liulin Zhang 张榴琳

Language belongs to human beings: it distinguishes homo sapiens from other species. 

Writing belongs to civilization: it serves and records the development of human civilization.

Homo sapiens has a history of hundreds of thousands of years, while human civilization only has a history of thousands of years: human beings lived for a long time without writing. Then why do we need writing now? What does writing do to human beings? What is the relationship between language and writing?

As a native Chinese speaker with some knowledge in
English and Japanese, I am trying to answer the above
questions from a contrastive perspective.








The Effects of Writing on Language

Written signs stabilize the basic units of a language, and affects users' understanding of language in general, thus having an effect on language ideology.

On Phonology: Those phonetic units and features that are clearly represented in writing have less variation than those units and features that are not represented in writing. 

On Morphology: The smallest meaningful unit of a language, i.e., morpheme, cannot be smaller than one sign in writing.

On Language Ideology: Written signs foreground the linguistic units that they represent in users' perception of language, thus making them salient in language ideology.

Supported by The Interdisciplinary Research Fund of Soochow University, Grant No. 5033720623

Lability of Verbs and
the Change-of-State Construction

Lability refers to the ability of verbs that can alternate between transitive and intransitive use without marking. Cross-linguistically, labile verbs prototypically denote change of state.

Linguistic Typology: The number of labile verbs in a language negatively correlates with the level of grammaticalization of passive, causative, and anticausative (ergative) markers. Therefore, as a typical analytic language, Chinese is particularly rich in labile verbs. 

Language Acquisition and Teaching: As unmarked forms are not so salient as marked forms, those unmarked change-of-state expressions in Chinese that are marked in other languages require explicit instruction to foster noticing.

Supported by the National Social Science Fund of China, Grant No. 20FYYB043.

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