Transitivity in Light Verb Variations in Mandarin Chinese – A Comparable Corpus-based Statistical Approach

Menghan Jiang, Dingxu Shi, Chu-ren Huang

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


This paper adopts a comparable corpus-based approach to light verb variations in two varieties of Mandarin Chinese and proposes a transitivity (Hopper and Thompson 1980) based theoretical account. Light verbs are highly grammaticalized and lack strong collocation restrictions; hence it has been a challenge to empirical accounts. It is even more challenging to consider their variations between different varieties (e.g. Taiwan and Mainland Mandarin). This current study follows the research paradigm set up in Lin et al. (2014) for differentiating different light verbs and Huang et al. (2014) for automatic discovery of light verb variations. In our study, a corpus-based statistical approach is adopted to show that both internal variety differences between light verbs and external differences between different variants can be detected effectively. The distributional differences between Mainland and Taiwan can also shed light on the re-classification of syntactic types of the taken complement. We further argue that the variations in selection of arguments of light verb in two Mandarin variants can in fact be accounted for in terms of their different degree of transitivity. Higher degree of transitivity in Taiwan Mandarin in fact show that light verbs are less grammaticalized and hence consistent with the generalization that varieties away from the main speaking community should be more conservative.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 30th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

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