Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 75–102

Object Preposing in Classical and Pre-Medieval Chinese



In this paper, one of the three instances of object preposing in Classical Chinese, the structure [NP1 NP2shi / zhi V], is discussed in detail. According to their distributional differences, two structures—A [NP1 NP2shi V] and B [NP1 NP2zhi V]—are distinguished, and it is shown that both constructions, although sometimes identical in the surface structure, are subject to different syntactic and semantic constraints. This analysis challenges the hypothesis proposed by Peyraube (Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientales 26(1):3–20, 1997) that structure A [NP1 NP2shi V] was gradually replaced by structure B [NP1 NP2zhi V] during the Warring States period. In accordance with the syntactic constraints, different analyses are proposed for structures A and B in the course of the paper. Structure A, [NPS NPOshi V], is analyzed as a copula construction, a focalization (cleft) construction with the object not in preverbal position but to the right of the copula. Structure B, which is more heterogeneous than structure A, will be subdivided into different structures, only two of which will be retained as cases of a focalized and preposed object. The analysis reveals that object preposing in Classical Chinese is evidently a case of marked word order and cannot be assumed to be a vestige of an earlier SOV word order in Chinese.


Object preposing Focalization Copula construction Classical Chinese 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CRLAO, EHESS, Humboldt-University Berlin, Seminar für SinologieInstitut für Asien- und AfrikawissenschaftenBerlinGermany

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