Classical Chinese is the written language used from the late 6th to the early 2nd century BCE. Located between the Eastern Zhou (770–256) and the foundation of the Qin dynasty (221-207), its textual repertoire comprises the philosophical treaties of the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) and, based on syntactic criteria, roughly coincides with the Late Archaic Chinese (from now on LAC). In a diachronic perspective, this is the stage between the rise of a set of possibility and desiderative modals and their systematic use to express a progressively more varied set of modal meanings. Even though many of those expressions still instantiate in modern Chinese, as bùdébù ’have to’, which echoes the LAC construction of possibility modal in double negation, the usage of other markers fell in disuse to be replaced by specialized modal, especially for epistemic and deontic modality, starting from Early Medieval Chinese (2nd-6th c. CE). The main bulk of LAC modals is built around three possibility modals, characterized by different syntactic, aspectual and argumental properties, and expressing three types of enabling conditions for the actualization of the state of affairs. The first, and the most productive, is kĕ ’be possible, can’; it is related to the presence or absence of external factors which allow or prevent a given event. The modal néng ’be able’ is instead referred to inherent properties of the first participant; finally, dé ’come to get, manage’ expresses the potential of actualization of the first participant in the given circumstances. Combined with negation, restrictive focus markers, and specific pragmatic environments, each marker conveys a more varied array of modal meanings, also shifting to the necessity domain. In the latter area, the primary normative source is bound to contingent circumstances (including the power emanated by an authority), rather than moral obligations. Additionally, the only item which occurs consistently in LAC literature as a direct equivalent of deontic ‘should’ (yí 宜) is more related to appropriateness than obligation. A further set of modal particles and Speaker-oriented adverbs contribute to expressing the degree of factuality of the propositional content, conveying evidential and epistemic contents. Finally, the data shows the centrality in LAC of the notion of necessity interpreted in terms of unavoidability, only possibility, and lack of alternatives.

The Expression of Modality in Classical Chinese: Notions, taxonomy and distinctive features

Carlotta Sparvoli
In corso di stampa

Abstract

Classical Chinese is the written language used from the late 6th to the early 2nd century BCE. Located between the Eastern Zhou (770–256) and the foundation of the Qin dynasty (221-207), its textual repertoire comprises the philosophical treaties of the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) and, based on syntactic criteria, roughly coincides with the Late Archaic Chinese (from now on LAC). In a diachronic perspective, this is the stage between the rise of a set of possibility and desiderative modals and their systematic use to express a progressively more varied set of modal meanings. Even though many of those expressions still instantiate in modern Chinese, as bùdébù ’have to’, which echoes the LAC construction of possibility modal in double negation, the usage of other markers fell in disuse to be replaced by specialized modal, especially for epistemic and deontic modality, starting from Early Medieval Chinese (2nd-6th c. CE). The main bulk of LAC modals is built around three possibility modals, characterized by different syntactic, aspectual and argumental properties, and expressing three types of enabling conditions for the actualization of the state of affairs. The first, and the most productive, is kĕ ’be possible, can’; it is related to the presence or absence of external factors which allow or prevent a given event. The modal néng ’be able’ is instead referred to inherent properties of the first participant; finally, dé ’come to get, manage’ expresses the potential of actualization of the first participant in the given circumstances. Combined with negation, restrictive focus markers, and specific pragmatic environments, each marker conveys a more varied array of modal meanings, also shifting to the necessity domain. In the latter area, the primary normative source is bound to contingent circumstances (including the power emanated by an authority), rather than moral obligations. Additionally, the only item which occurs consistently in LAC literature as a direct equivalent of deontic ‘should’ (yí 宜) is more related to appropriateness than obligation. A further set of modal particles and Speaker-oriented adverbs contribute to expressing the degree of factuality of the propositional content, conveying evidential and epistemic contents. Finally, the data shows the centrality in LAC of the notion of necessity interpreted in terms of unavoidability, only possibility, and lack of alternatives.
Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics
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Carlotta Sparvoli
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/878381
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