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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reduplication in old Chinese Sun, Jingtao


This dissertation aims at constructing a description of reduplication in Old Chinese, developing a generative theory of morpho-phonological interaction to account for the formation of the reduplication patterns, and re-examining general reduplication theories and issues of other linguistic components by drawing lessons from Old Chinese reduplication. The investigation of the source data reveals that Old Chinese reduplication has four basic patterns: progressive reduplication with either "smallness" or "vividness", retrogressive pattern with "repetition", fission reduplication with "specialization", and total reduplication with a vivid impression (a parasitic sense). The formation of the reduplication patterns results from the interaction between morphology and phonology. With motivation from semantics, the monosyllabic base is reduplicated as two identical syllables, which undergo further modification. 1) Since the reduplicative form with "diminutive" or "vividness" is semantically undecomposable, OOP (One Syllable One Meaning Principle) forces the two syllables to sound like one, which is achieved by raising the sonority of the onset of the second syllable. As such, the progressive pattern arises. 2) For the same reason, the reduplicative form with "specialization" has the same shape as the progressive at one stage. Pressure from the system thus compels it to undergo further modification, eventually producing the fission pattern. 3) The reduplicative form with a vivid impression is not under the control of OOP; thus it can keep its two identical syllables intact, yielding total reduplication pattern. 4) Reduplicative verbs are semantically decomposable; thus OOP does not come into effect. That the form is actually modified stems from the pressure of an already-existent total reduplication pattern, while this modification of the first rhyme is determined by quasi-iambic stress. This interaction produces a retrogressive pattern. This study sheds light on reduplication processes in general and other linguistic issues. During reduplication, full reduplication occurs first; then the reduplicant is modified. That reduplication operates on the interface between morphology and phonology is a universal phenomenon, but how this operation proceeds is language-specific. The consistent distinction between Type A syllables and Type B syllables seen in Old Chinese reduplication patterns indicates the unreasonableness of reconstructing a "medial" yod for Old Chinese.

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