The Diachronic Distribution of Chinese ‘One’-Phrases: Word Order and Minimizers
This chapter deals with synchronic variation through a diachronic lens. Mismatches between syntactic and semantic properties are usually rooted in diachronic development. This diachronic analysis reveals how large-scale changes in a language conspire to give rise to a novel construction. This study addresses this layer of synchronic-diachronic association through the analysis of the distribution of numeral phrases as polarity sensitive items in different patterns of word order in Mandarin Chinese. The analysis will show how senses of a polysemous construction have developed by being associated with semantically and syntactically relevant constructions through a series of changes in word order. In order to capture the tendencies of language change, a longitudinal corpus study is conducted to examine this distribution of numeral phrases as minimizers in different types of word order patterns. The distribution of minimizers reveals the connections between large-scale changes and developments of new constructions. The cross-period corpus analysis provides a quantitative treatment of the mechanisms and motivations behind a chain of diachronic changes.