Aspectual categories that overlap: A historical and dialectal perspective of the Chinese zhe*

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Abstract

Recent studies of the Modern Mandarin aspectual marker zhe have found that as an imperfective marker it typically signals a stative resultant situation. In various modern Chinese dialects, the cognates of zhe, however, can also mark perfect, perfective, inchoative, and progressive aspects, as well as locative. By examining various uses of zhe's cognates in modern Chinese languages and in historical texts, this paper finds that the imperfective zhe may arise from its uses as a directive verb in Middle Chinese. Furthermore, the imperfective and perfect aspects in Modern Wu are used interchangeably in situations related to resultative senses. It is further hypothesized that it is this type of semantic overlapping that provides important links leading to the genesis of the various aspectual meanings of zhe's cognates. The paper concludes that there are no clear-cut semantic boundaries among the Chinese aspectual categories.

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