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Survey of Chinese Historical Syntax Part I: Pre-Archaic and Archaic Chinese



This is the first of two articles presenting a brief overview of Chinese historical syntax from the Pre-Archaic period to Middle Chinese. The phenomena under examination in the two papers are primarily aspects of pre-medieval grammar which differ markedly from modern Chinese varieties, specifically fronting of object NPs to preverbal position, the asymmetry between subject and object relative clause formation, and the encoding of argument structure alternations like active and passive. I relate each of these characteristics to morphological distinctions on nouns, verbs, or pronouns, which are either overtly represented in the logographic writing system in Archaic Chinese or have been reconstructed for (Pre-)Archaic Chinese. In the second part of this series, I discuss the changes in the Archaic Chinese grammatical features and correlate these innovations with the loss of the (Pre-)Archaic Chinese morphology. The main goal of these articles is to highlight a common denominator, i.e. the morphology, which enables a systemic view of pre-medieval Chinese and the changes which have resulted in the striking differences observed in Middle Chinese and beyond.