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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.







· 普通语言文字学 · 语言类型学 · 文字系统 · 语言意识形态 · 认知功能语言学·


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.

Lability of Verbs and
the Change-of-State Construction




      Labile verbs can alternate between the transitive use and the intransitive use. They prototypically denote change-of-state events that can either happen spontaneouly or caused by external forces. 

  • The complex event structure of change-of-state events can be profiled in two competing ways in human conceptualization: the agent-oriented way and the theme-oriented way, resulting in the transitive structure and the intransitive structure respectively.

  • The transitivity of labile verbs is negatively correlated with the likelihood of the spontaneous occurrence of the event.

  • Analytic languages such as Chinese are particularly rich in labile verbs. 

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