Angry Thunder and Vicious Frost: Remarks on the Unaccusativity of Chinese Weather Verbs

Sicong Dong, Jie Xu, Chu-ren Huang

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


Thunder and frost are said in Sinitic languages to be controlled by higher powers, or to simply occur by themselves, or even to cast severe damage on human society as agents. Such diverse linguistic behaviours and meanings pose challenges and add complexity to the ongoing unaccusativity debate on weather verbs. We present in this paper an investigation on various weather verbs in Mandarin and other Sinitic languages based on cross-linguistic dictionary and corpus data. By a set of diagnostics, cases of unaccusative, unergative and transitive weather verbs have been attested in Sinitic languages. The majority of weather verbs are alternatively unaccusative or unergative, depending on which event structure they are associated with. Specifically, the unaccusative behaviour is linked to the view of weather events as happenstances, in the cognitive processing mode of sequential scanning; the unergative behaviour is linked to the view of weather events as activities, in the cognitive processing mode of summary scanning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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