Surpass comparatives in Sinitic and beyond: typology and grammaticalization
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The Surpass (or Exceed) comparative is a widespread feature of Sinitic languages found in almost all ‘dialect’ groups. This article investigates the nature of Surpass constructions in Southern Chinese varieties with a focus on Cantonese, and in unrelated languages of Southeast Asia, where Surpass comparatives are also found (Thai, Lao and Vietnamese). I offer possible grammaticalization paths for the Surpass comparative in the history of Chinese grammar, and argue that Surpass constructions are typical of Southern Sinitic but not of Mandarin Chinese (contra Stassen, Comparison and universal grammar, Basil Blackwell, 1985, Stassen, Comparative constructions, Oxford University Press, 2005). I also propose that the Surpass comparative should be added to the shared features of a broadly defined Mainland Southeast Asian region which illustrates the affinity of languages such as Cantonese to their non-Sinitic Southeast Asian neighbors. Finally, in arguing that comparatives in Mandarin Chinese are not Surpass construction, I suggest that it is not Sinitic languages in general that go against robust typological correlations between basic word order and standard-adjective order; rather, it is only Mandarin that provides a counterexample and is, in that respect, typologically rare.
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