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A corpus-based study of split words in Chinese: Interfacing morphology, syntax and pragmatics

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects

15/01/0814/04/09

Split words are a type of construction in Chinese that consists of two parts which are separable by some interposing elements, though they behave like and are usually considered as single words when they are not separated. Chinese split words are formed in a manner which is roughly comparable to infixing and syntactic interposing in English, and separable complex verbs in Dutch and German. Nevertheless, split words are essentially different because of the range and nature of interposing elements. Consequently, split words in Chinese present a challenge for existing morphological and syntactic theories.

The proposed research will take a corpus-based approach to the study of split words in their interaction with morphology, syntax, stylistics and pragmatics, aiming at producing a systematic and realistic account of Chinese split words as attested in authentic language. The work will be theoretically situated within the framework of prosodic morphology and empirically based upon balanced corpora of written and spoken Chinese amounting to two million words. By investigating Chinese split words in typological comparison with related phenomena in relevant languages, the study will also contribute to a better understanding of the typology of morpho-phonological and morpho-syntactic types in word formation.