- Nominalization in Asian Languages: Diachronic and Typological Perspectives ed. by Foong Ha Yap, Karen Hårsta-Grunow, Janick Wrona
This very substantial volume, based on a conference held at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2007, provides a comprehensive overview of the typologically interesting properties of nominalization in a variety of languages of the Asian area, and how these developed diachronically. It is dedicated to the memory of Michael Noonan, who participated in the conference and contributed a chapter, but sadly passed away in 2009. The book includes a preface and an excellent introduction providing background information, and then twenty-five chapters: eleven on Sino-Tibetan languages (four on Sinitic languages and seven on Tibeto-Burman languages), four on Korean and Japanese, eight on Austronesian languages, one on an Iranian language, and one on a Papuan language of eastern Indonesia. In addition to the introduction, six chapters provide a wide-ranging comparative perspective: one on Classical Chinese, two within Tibeto-Burman, one within a subgroup of Tibeto-Burman, one comparing Korean and Japanese, and one on Austronesian. The remaining nineteen chapters focus mainly on phenomena in specific languages, with some diachronic observations where relevant. The Tibeto-Burman, Iranian, and Papuan languages are verb-final, while many Austronesian languages are verb-initial, so their typology differs in interesting ways. Sinitic is, of course, verb-medial, but shows various features characteristic of verb-final structure, suggesting that it was formerly verb-final like most of the rest of Sino-Tibetan.
The preface (pp. xi–xiv) and introduction (pp. 1–57) by the three editors set the scene and provide a framework for the studies of specific languages and groups of languages in the volume. In this linguistic area, as in many others, light nouns or other nominal forms grammaticalize into nominalizer functions. These often acquire additional functions: for example, marking various kinds of clause subordination such as relativization, adverbialization, and complementation, or marking tense-aspect, epistemic and evidential stance, or both in main clauses (p. xii). The seminal source on these phenomena in this area is Matisoff’s work (1972), which observed the combination of nominalization, relativization, genitive, and main-clause marking in the Lahu form ve; the same thing is also seen in modern Mandarin de. The editors describe various “robust grammaticalization pathways” seen in a number of languages of this area: from nominalization to relativization and genitivization, and then to main clause functions (p. 49). In passing, there are also some additional useful observations not found elsewhere in the book, such as on the relatively recent grammaticalization of Mandarin shuō . . . dehuà (say . . . de speech) ‘speech said about . . .’ to the very frequent informal conditional . . . dehuà ‘if . . . ’ (p. 48); there is further discussion of the extensively grammaticalized Mandarin form de in chapter 3. (In this review, modern Mandarin forms are cited in pīnyīn orthography, with tones indicated by superscript diacritics; no diacritic indicates the neutral tone, as for de. Classical Chinese forms, following the common but anachronistic practice, are cited using the modern Mandarin pronunciation of the relevant characters — which may be markedly different from their actual pronunciation of those characters in the Classical period — usually along with a reference to Karlgren’s  character numbers.) [End Page 92]
The coverage of Sino-Tibetan languages starts with four chapters on Sinitic: Yap and Jiao Wang (pp. 61–107) on various syntactic developments relevant to nominalization between Classical Chinese and modern Mandarin Chinese; Huiling Xu and Stephen Matthews (pp. 109–24) on a Chaozhou (Southern Min) variety spoken in northeastern Guangdong Province; Joanna Ut-seong Sio (pp. 125–46) on Cantonese; and Sze-wing Tang (pp. 147–60) comparing developments in Mandarin and Cantonese.
Yap and Wang consider the Classical Chinese forms zhě and suǒ (in their modern Mandarin pronunciations; these are characters 45a and 91a, respectively, in Karlgren 1957) as used in texts from circa twenty-five hundred years ago, their subsequent grammaticalizations, and their eventual gradual replacement in modern...