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date: 28 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Mandarin Chinese often expresses motion events through a concatenation of verbal morphemes, but their word order is not flexible. Cross-linguistically, motion verbs are commonly classified into manner-of-motion verbs and path verbs. However, such a two-way classification fails to provide a full account of the fixed word orders in motion constructions with two path verbal morphemes. An implicational hierarchy with a more fine-grained four-way classification of motion morphemes better explains the encoding of the motion events in Chinese. If we understand directed motion as change on the scale of distance, the order of morphemes is actually closely associated to the degree of specification in the scale of motion each morpheme lexicalizes. Path morphemes that specify the existence of a scale must precede path morphemes that specify both a scale and an endpoint for the scale. The approach clarifies the role of scalar specificity a motion morpheme lexicalizes in its distribution.

Keywords: motion event, scale of distance, scale of motion, word order, motion morphemes

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