The diachronic development of the Chinese passive

From the WEI ... SUO passive to the long passive

  • Yin Li

Abstract

This article discusses the diachronic development of the Chinese long passive. The diachronic analysis is built on structural analysis of the long passive and the WEI ... SUO passive. I show that both constructions involve a highly restricted embedded clause (a vP) and that both are derived via Aʹ-movement. Based on their structural parallelism, I argue that the WEI ... SUO passive, which first appeared in Late Archaic Chinese (fifth century BCE ~ third century BCE), is the direct ancestor of the long passive. The long passive inherits its Aʹ properties and biclausal structure from the WEI ... SUO passive. I also show that the diachronic development from the WEI ... SUO passive to the long passive took place in two steps: (i) the loss of SUO following a morphophonological change in Early Middle Chinese (second century BCE ~ second century CE, and (ii) the replacement of WEI by BEI in Middle Chinese (third century CE ~ sixth century CE).
Published
2019-09-10
Section
Articles