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Taiwan Mandarin shuo ‘to say’ as a complementizer: A sociolinguistic analysis of a grammaticalization in progress

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This paper describes the grammaticalization of the Mandarin verb shuo ‘to say’ as a complementizer in Taiwan Mandarin (T.M.). T.M. is a new variety that developed out of contact among local Chinese languages (Holo, Hakka) and numerous non-standard varieties of Mandarin brought over from Mainland China after 1945. SAY verbs (verba dicendi) are used as complementizers in Holo, Hakka and Cantonese, as well as in Southern Mainland Mandarin. But in contrast to other Mandarin varieties, in T.M. shuo appears to function as a full-fledged complementizer, rather than a quotative marker in a serial verb construction. My data shows that T.M. speakers also use shuo as a complementizer following not only verbs of ‘saying,’ such as ‘to tell,’ but also verbs of cognition (‘to constrain’) and of emotion (‘to fear,’ ‘to be angry,’ ‘to hope’). The grammaticalization of shuo in T.M. thus appears to be an ongoing process, influenced by language contact. Furthermore, speakers in Taiwan seem to perceive the complementizer shuo as a distinct lexical item from shuo meaning ‘to say.’ In a VARBRUL analysis of T.M. glide deletion where shuo > [sɔ], speakers were much more likely to use the T.M. variant if shuo functioned as a complementizer than if it functioned as the verb ‘say.’ This suggests that as the grammatical function of shuo is ‘localized,’ this is also marked by the ‘Taiwanization’ of the phonetic shape of the word.

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