Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
A Systemic Typology of Existential and Possessive Constructions
Dr. Wang Yong
School of Foreign Languages, Huazhong Normal University
Date: 10 June 2010, Thursday
Time: 3:00 - 4:30 pm
Venue: B7603 (Lift 3, 7/F., Blue Zone), Academic Building, CityU
Existential, locative, and possessive constructions (exemplified by There is a book on the table, The book is on the table, I have a book, The book is mine respectively) are found to be systematically related to one another. Morpho-syntactically, the relation lies in word order, case marking, choice of verbs, etc. Semantically they show definiteness effect, locative feature, and the two entities involved in the constructions (i.e., the locative element/possessor and the existent/possessed) are mutually defining. The key to this relatedness is the recognition that possession is a kind of sophisticated and institutionalized existence. We argue the choice among these constructions is functionally motivated. That is, they belong to a system in which the semantic features of HUMAN/NON-HUMAN, DEFINITE/NON-DEFINITE are entry conditions of sub-systems of different degrees of delicacy. In this light, Halliday’s (1970) treatment (in which existential is taken as a kind of relational process) of relational process is more in line with cross-linguistic data.
WANG Yong, Ph.D., is an associate professor at School of Foreign Languages, Huazhong Normal University (HZNU). He got his PhD in functional linguistics in Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou, China) in 2003. From 2006 through 2009 he finished his postdoc research by doing a typological study on the existential construction within the framework of systemic-functional linguistics at the Research Center for Language and Language Education, HZNU. His research interest includes: functional linguistics, language typology, and discourse analysis. In recent years, he has published about 30 articles, one monograph, and several textbooks both within and outside China. His major publications are: A Functional Study of the Evaluative Enhanced Theme Construction in English (Prentice Hall 2008), Recursion in Text Structure (Foreign Language Teaching and Research, coauthored with Prof. HUANG Guowen, 2006 (5)), a Construction Grammar Study of the Chinese Existential Sentence (Language Research, 2010(3)).