A semantic typology of location, existence, possession and copular verbs: areal patterns of polysemy in Mainland East and Southeast Asia
Hilary Chappell and Shanshan Lü*
(Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l’Asie orientale (CRLAO), Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France; Institute of Corpus Studies and Applications, Shanghai International Studies University, Office 142, Classroom Building 5, 1550 Wenxiang Rd., Songjiang Dist., 201620, Shanghai, China)
Abstract：This study is based on a sample of 116 languages from the Mainland East and Southeast Asian linguistic area. Its first objective is to examine four distinct synchronic patterns of areal polysemy, created by the semantic domains of copular, locative, existential and possessive verbs and the constructions they form. As a consequence, its second objective is to model the diachronic change underlying four language types identified on this basis from the data. We argue that there are three grammaticalization pathways which motivate the four synchronic patterns: Type III languages are distinguished by the grammaticalization chain: (Postural verb) > (Dwell) > Locative > Existential > Possessive, while the other two types, Type II and Type IV, show an opposing pathway: (Grasp) > Possessive > Existential. Type I and Type II languages additionally reveal a recurrent polysemy between Locative and Copular verbs. On this basis, an implicational universal is adduced to the effect that no diachronic adjacency exists between locative and possessive constructions. Crucially, the intervening stage of an existential construction provides the necessary bridging context for possessive reanalysis in this first pathway, while possessive verbs are formally distinct from locatives in the second, bearing no diachronic relationship to them. The findings on the patterns of polysemy sharing reinforce the notion of a clear typological split between Tibeto-Burman languages on the one hand, and Sinitic, Kra–Dai, Hmong–Mien, and Austroasiatic on the other.
Keywords：existential and possessive verbs; locative; Mainland East and Southeast Asian linguistic area (MESEA); polysemy sharing; semantic typology