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On some endangered Sinitic languages spoken in Northwestern China

  • Alain Peyraube (a1)

Abstract

This paper will examine one of the most characteristic syntactic properties of languages, namely the case system for the following three Sinitic languages spoken in Northwestern China: Línxià (or Hézhōu), Tāngwāng, Gāngōu, which have been sometimes viewed as ‘mixed languages’. An answer to the following main questions will be tentatively suggested in the conclusion: do we really have case suffixes in these languages (cases are a morphological notion) or simply thematic roles expressed by postpositions (thematic roles are a semantic notion)? Do we really have a Qinghai-Gansu linguistic area (Sprachbund), as has been suggested? Can these Sinitic languages be characterized as being mixed languages?

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1.See Corbett who summarizes the ‘long-running and still vital debate’ concerning the way in which one can determine the number of cases (case values) in one language. G. Corbett (2008) Determining morphosyntactic feature values: The case of case. In: G. Corbett and Michael Noonan (Eds.), Case and Grammatical Relations – Studies in Honor of Bernard Comrie (Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins), pp. 1–34. See also L. Hjelmslev (1935–1937) La catégorie des cas; étude de grammaire générale (Aarhus: Universitets-vorlaget); J. Kuryłowicz (1949) Le problème du classement des cas. Biuletyn Polskiego Towarzystwa Językoznawczego, 9, pp. 20–43.
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3.The transcriptions are given here in the Chinese official system pīnyīn for Standard Mandarin, as Línxià is undoubtedly a Sinitic language belonging to the one of the large Mandarin subgroups. Consequently, no transcription has ever been proposed for it. It goes without saying, however, that the initials, finals and tones in Línxià are quite different from Standard Mandarin.
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