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Morphological Changes of Chinese Under the Influence of Language Contact: The Usages of Suffix –men Before and After the May Fourth Movement and Its Current Usages

The study examines the diachronic changes during the May Fourth Movement and synchronic variation of the current use of the suffix -men, based on data from two corpora, Center for Chinese Linguistics (CCL) and Text of Recent Chinese (TorCH). Investigation in CCL shows that the suffix -men had already been used as a plural marker of human nouns in Qing Dynasty, while the usage of the suffix -men spreads from human to non-human nouns after the May Fourth Movement. Meanwhile, the prosodic and semantic constraints on the use of the suffix -men with human nouns have also been greatly relaxed. Investigation of the TorCH corpus reveals information on the current usage of suffix -men: the constraints on the usage of the suffix -men after human nouns and nonhuman nouns have been further loosened and the distribution of -men in discourse genres varies from a higher frequency of –men in prose and fiction to a lower frequency in scholarly literature. In the case of the development of -men since the May Fourth Movement, I argue the change is due to the type of borrowing referred to as frequential copying under the framework of code-copying. Code-internal factor of the use of -men as a plural marker in Chinese before May Fourth Movement is a prerequisite of copying, and the extra-linguistic factors, that is, the language ideology of improving Baihua through copying the grammar of Indo-European languages after the May Fourth and the increasing use of English since the adoption of opening-up policy, have greatly stimulated the copying of the plural marker from model code onto basic code.

Suffix -men, Language Contact, Explicit Marker of Plurality, Language Ideology

Ye He, Yong Zhong, Xinmei Jiang, Donald Winford. (2023). Morphological Changes of Chinese Under the Influence of Language Contact: The Usages of Suffix –men Before and After the May Fourth Movement and Its Current Usages. International Journal of Language and Linguistics, 11(4), 126-135.

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