In this paper, we have investigated the variations of perfective and perfect aspect makers in 135 Chinese dialects corresponding to ‘le(了)’ in Mandarin. The aim of this study is to compare the variation forms of aspect markers between various Chinese dialects and to examine the correlation between form and function.
In Mandarin Chinese, it is difficult to distinguish semantic functions because perfective and perfect aspects are represented by the same ‘le(了)’. However, in Chinese dialect, the marker corresponding to ‘le(了)’ has various forms depending on the syntactic distribution and semantic function. Depending on the dialect, ‘le₁(了1)’ following the verb and ‘le₂(了2)’ of sentence-final may have one form or two or more forms. In order to observe these aspects comprehensively, we reviewed related prior studies and conducted a survey of more than 135 dialect speakers. According to a survey of Chinese dialect, dialects using one form make up 40% of the total. The remaining 60% of the dialects have two or more forms.
In a survey of Chinese dialects, we found that aspect markers corresponding to “le” vary in distribution and combine with different types of predicates. And we can see that the distributional difference of ‘le(了)’ greatly affects the functional difference. Specifically, the function of ‘le(了)’ has a clear contrast between ‘sentence-final’ and ‘non-sentence-final’. In other words, functional contrasts are basically closely related to the distribution of ‘le(了)’. When ‘le(了)’ is placed in sentence-final, it is closely related to the form of ‘le₂(了2)’, whether it is added to a verb or an adjective. On the other hand, when ‘le(了)’ is used in a non-sentence-final position, it is closely related to the form of ‘le₁(了1)’, whether it is added to a verb or an adjective. In addition, the contrast between the meanings of predicates expressed as ‘dynamic’ and ‘static’ is not as obvious as the contrast between ‘sentence-final’ and ‘non-sentence-final’.
This paper classifies types of 135 dialects based on the formal similarity of ‘le(了)’ As a result of statistical cluster analysis, it can be seen that it is divided into three types. These three types correspond to perfective, perfect, and completive, respectively. (1) ‘le₁(了1)’ is an aspect marker that can be attributed to perfective. As a result of the dialect investigation, the sentences corresponding to ‘le₁(了1)’ can be classified into the same group because they maintain similarity in form. (2) ‘le₂(了2)’ is an aspect marker that can be classified as perfect. According to the dialectal survey, ‘le₂(了2)’ was classified as an independent type, although its internal variation varied but had a distinctive morphological characteristic from ‘le₁(了1)’ as a whole. (3) ‘le(了)’ which has the function of result-complement belongs to the completive aspect because the degree of grammaticalization is lower than the other two types. When ‘le(了)’ is combined with a verb that has meaning of destruction and consumption, it can be interpreted as completive aspectual meaning. The degree of grammaticalization of these three types can be said to have a hierarchy of ‘completive