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A Construction Morphology account of derivation in Mandarin Chinese


In the Chinese language, morphologically complex words have been attested since the remote past of the language, including both stem-modifying processes and agglutination of morphemes, mostly lexical and free in the classical language. However, in Chinese, grammaticalization typically entails no phonological alteration (Bisang, Studies in Language 20:519–597, 1996) and it is still a matter of debate whether compounding and derivation are two distinct phenomena in Modern Mandarin Chinese (see, among others, Pan et al, The research on word formation in Chinese, 2004). In this paper we shall tackle this issue in the framework of Construction Morphology (Booij, In: Dressler et al (eds) Morphology in demarcations, 2005; In: Montermini et al (eds) Selected proceedings of the 5th Décembrettes: morphology in Toulouse, 2007), also taking into account the diachronic perspective. Our proposal is that it is possible to analyse as instances of grammaticalized derivational formants the right-hand elements in word formation schemas such as [[X] x 性] n [[X] x xìng] n ‘the quality of X/connected with X’ (抽象性 chōuxiàngxìng “abstractness”), which undergo processes of semantic shift analogous to those of e.g. English -hood.

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Correspondence to Giorgio Francesco Arcodia.

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Arcodia, G.F. A Construction Morphology account of derivation in Mandarin Chinese. Morphology 21, 89–130 (2011).

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  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Word-formation
  • Construction morphology
  • Derivation
  • Grammaticalization
  • Lexicalization