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date: 28 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

After defining auxiliary verbs as a grammatical category in Sinitic languages, this chapter sets out to analyze the notion of modality as expressed primarily by the Chinese modal verbs. Beginning with a brief sketch of their diachronic evolution, we proceed to treat this category in each of three major Sinitic languages, namely, Standard Mandarin, Hong Kong Cantonese, and Taiwanese Southern Min (Hokkien). It is shown that the main modal verbs possess different sets of polysemy in each of the three languages. Potential verb compounds are also considered, as well as clause-final modal particles coding speaker stance, both being characteristic of East and Southeast Asian languages in general. Although Sinitic languages do not mark mood inflectionally, an important discussion regarding this category is dedicated to sentence types and the role of negation, intimately connected with the expression of the irrealis, the interrogative and the imperative in Sinitic languages.

Keywords: Chinese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Southern Min, potential verb compounds, clause-final particles, negation, irrealis, interrogative, imperative

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