The development of the Chinese copula shì construction : A diachronic constructional perspective

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139–176
Journal / PublicationFunctions of Language
Issue number2
Online published2 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


This paper investigates the development of the copula shì construction in Chinese from the perspective of diachronic construction grammar (Traugott & Trousdale 2013). In prior work the development has been conceptualized in a grammaticalization framework, with focus on the individual expression shì, rather than on its development in the context of both the immediate syntactic frame and also of other constructions such as the demonstrative shì construction and the copula wéi construction. We show that the copula shì construction went through various types of expansion and reduction. The change was not unidirectional in the way predicted by a grammaticalization model such as is proposed in e.g. Lehmann (1995, 2004) and Haspelmath (2004).

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