At the edge of Altaic and Chinese worlds: Chinese Borrowed Verbs in Dongxiang Mongolian

Julie Lefort

At the edge of Altaic and Chinese worlds:
Chinese Borrowed Verbs in Dongxiang Mongolian

(66th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Göttingen, 2024)

This paper aims at analysing the types of Chinese borrowed verbs found in the Dongxiang language, mainly spoken in the Hexi corridor, situated at the border between the Gansu and Qinghai provinces in the People’s Republic of China. Dongxiang has been isolated from the other Mongolic languages and has been influenced by the Chinese variety of Linxia (also known as Hezhou), mainly spoken by the neighbouring Hui Muslim community. While lexical borrowings from Chinese have been quite well studied so far (Field 1991, Lefort 2022, Bao Saren 2017), the specific issue of borrowed verbs has not been addressed yet.

Taking Wohlgemuth’s definition and classification of verbal borrowings as a starting point (Wohlgemuth 2009), we aim at analyzing the different types of borrowed verbs in Dongxiang and the strategies used to incorporate those verbs, that is, in Wohlgemuth’s terms, direct insertion, indirect insertion, light verb strategy and paradigm insertion. The Dongxiang language has borrowed a considerable number of verbs from Linxia Chinese and has further developed derivation suffixes that are used with borrowed monosyllabic verbs (mainly -ʥi, -ji, -da and -la). Some of these suffixes are also used with stems of Mongolic origin, while others are exclusively used with Chinese stems. Furthermore, disyllabic verbs are integrated by adding the verb gie ‘to do’ after the borrowed verb, which can be considered an auxiliary verb. There are three types of borrowed verb patterns:

  1. [VCN/MON+SUF]: e.g. dɑŋ.lɑ ‘to become’ < dɑŋ (当)
  2. [VCN+SUF]: eg. ɕi.ji ‘to pity’< ɕi 惜
  3. [VCN+ ɡiə to do]: e.g. ʥiəʥiŋ ɡiə ‘to decide’ < ʥiədiŋ (决定)

Selected References:

Bāo Sàrén 包萨仁. 2017. Dōngxiāng yǔ hànyǔ jiēchù yánjiū《东乡语汉语接触研究》 [A study of contact between Dongxiang and Chinese languages]. Běijīng 北京: Zhōngguó guójì guǎngbò chūbǎn shè.
Field, Kenneth. Hui Loanwords in Dongxiang Mongolian. Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: General Session and Parasession on The Grammar of Event Structure. 1991: 92–106.
Lefort 2022 Contacts de Langues et Changements Linguistiques en Dongxiang. Collection des Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale 17. Ecole des hautes Etudes en sciences sociales Centre de Recherches Linguistiques sur l’Asie Orientale Paris.
Muysken, Pieter. 2000. Bilingual verbs in Muysken (ed.) Bilingualism Speech – A Typology of Code-Mixing, 184–220.
Wohlgemuth, J. A Typology of Verbal Borrowings; Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin, Germany, 2009.