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The origin of the suffix -men [Chinese character] in Chinese

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 April 2001

ROBERT ILJIC
Affiliation:
EHESS/CNRS

Abstract

This article examines the competing theories dealing with the origin of the so-called plural suffix -men in Chinese. Their internal consistency is assessed both diachronically and—in a novel approach—on the conceptual level, that is, with reference to the fundamental value of -men today. As a result, the theses favouring an autochthonous development come out on top, to the detriment of those postulating an exogenous source. -Men is in all likelihood an outcome of the grammaticalization of the notion of ‘clan’, operating on a substratum of ancient Chinese collectives.

Type
Articles
Copyright
© Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2001

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