[Lingtyp] Universal trend: biclausal -> monoclausal?

周士宏 zhoushihong at bnu.edu.cn
Tue Dec 4 02:29:32 UTC 2018

Dear Everyone,
I will add to this to the above discussion. In Mandain Chinese,especially in the Mandarin Chinese, this is a phenomenea which I suppose could also counted as "biclausal -> monoclausal".There is one word tag question interjcetion, prounced as "ha"(哈). It typical use is attached to an utternace,requesting confirmation or agreement.For example,
 Ni3 chi1 fan4 le,ha?
 you eat meal ASP,tag(tag question)
 you have eaten your meal,haven't you?

or “jin1 tian1 tian1  qi4  bu2  cuo4,ha?”
   today,   sky  air   not  bad,tag
 today,the weather is good, isn't it?
In this example there is a very ovbious pauase,between the two clasue.Altough ha is just one word, it should be counted as a clause, just like the Canadian English "eh" ,or the tag question in English.

But nowadays, more more people accept now pause between the two clause, prounced as:

  ni3 chi1 fan4 le ha.          
I assumen you have eaten your meal

jin1 tian1 tian1 qi4 bu2 cuo4 ha.
It is a good day( I assume you would say so)

So "ha"(哈) in these cases are more like an epistemic utterance final partilce, losing its interrogative meaning.

can this emergent use of ha included into the biclusal to monoclausal trend? are there any more this changse in other languages or some references?

Best regards!

ZHOU, Shihong

发件人:"stephen morey" <moreystephen at hotmail.com>
发送时间:2018-12-03 10:19:10 (星期一)
收件人: "Bill Palmer" <bill.palmer at newcastle.edu.au>, "Jorge Rosés Labrada" <jrosesla at ualberta.ca>, "haspelmath at shh.mpg.de" <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>
抄送: "list, typology" <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
主题: Re: [Lingtyp] Universal trend: biclausal -> monoclausal?

Dear Everyone,

I'll add to this, I'm also a native speaker of English, and I also think that 'I want to not make a mistake' is perfectly fine.

It is even better for me, however, if I say something like 'I very much want to not make a mistake'

As a slight digression, many years ago in India, after several hours of blackout, I remember saying "I am thinking that the line will not come" (Line = electricity) and at that moment the power came on! In Australia I would have said "I don't think the power will come." (except that we don't get quite as many blackouts here).


From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of Bill Palmer <bill.palmer at newcastle.edu.au>
Sent: Monday, 3 December 2018 1:05 AM
To: Jorge Rosés Labrada; haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Cc: list, typology
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] Universal trend: biclausal -> monoclausal?

Hi Martin


I’m a native speaker of English and “I want to not make a mistake” is absolutely fine, not even borderline or questionable for me.





From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> On Behalf Of Jorge Rosés Labrada
Sent: Saturday, 1 December 2018 2:07 AM
To:haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Cc: list, typology <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] Universal trend: biclausal -> monoclausal?


Dear Martin,

Regarding your negability test, I am a non-native speaker of English so take this with a grain of salt but your “I want[/would like] to not make [any] mistake[s]” doesn’t sound so bad to me (perhaps with some emphatic intonation on the negator).

And a collocation with a modal “could” and two negators (e.g. “I could not not come”) is totally possible for me (with some emphatic intonation on the second negator). It seems like at least in the COCA corpus, this is attested (n=10):




Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada

Assistant Professor, Indigenous Language Sustainability

Department of Linguistics

University of Alberta

Tel: (+1) 780-492-5698

jrosesla at ualberta.ca 


The University of Alberta acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, and respects the history, languages, and cultures of the First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and all First Peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our institution.

On Nov 30, 2018, at 5:01 AM, Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de> wrote:


On 29.11.18 00:30, Adam James Ross Tallman wrote:

It seems to be generally true that biclausal structures can become monoclausal structures over time and not the reverse.


This is indeed an interesting observation that has not been discussed very widely, I think. Harris & Campbell (1995) (in their book on diachronic syntax) discuss such phenomena at some length, but they don't seem to explain the unidirectionality. So it would be nice to see a convincing explanation.


But in order to make this claim fully testable, one needs a general definition of "clause", and I don't know of a very good definition. My working definition is in terms of negatability: If a structure that contains two verbs can be negated in two different ways, it's biclausal, but otherwise it's monoclausal:


She was able [to do it]. (biclausal)


(She was not able to do it / She was able not to do it)


She could do it. (monoclausal)


(She could not do it – there is no contrast between "she could [not do it]" and "she could not [do it]")


This indicates that "want" clauses are monoclausal in English, because "I want to not make a mistake" sounds bad. But the judgements are subtle, and one may perhaps even have something like "The king ordered the non-destruction of the city" (vs. "The king didn't order the distruction of the city", which is normally considered monoclausal).


So the negation criterion isn't very good, but I know of no better way of distinguishing in general between monoclausal and biclausal constructions.





Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Kahlaische Strasse 10    

D-07745 Jena


Leipzig University

Institut fuer Anglistik

IPF 141199

D-04081 Leipzig







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