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Open Access Verb Agreement in Gexi Horpa

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Verb Agreement in Gexi Horpa

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image of Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics

The Rgyalrongic languages (Qiangic branch, Sino-Tibetan family) are prime examples of a split verb agreement system grounded in the pragmatic salience of speech act participants. However, the Horpa language in this group presents a hybrid system involving a more intricate interplay of functional and syntactic factors, despite having less elaborate morphological material than some related languages. Many fundamental issues of Horpa verb agreement remain to be adequately explored, despite preliminary descriptions in the literature. This paper provides a new study of verb agreement in the Gexi variety of Horpa based on first-hand fieldwork data. Compared with Shangzhai Horpa of Rangtang County, Gexi displays many points of difference in its agreement system, including reduplication as a number-marking device, and functionally differentiated special and general sets of person-marking suffixes, the former restricted to transitive singular actants. Gexi verb agreement is undergoing typological transition from pragmatics-driven split agreement to syntax-driven subject agreement, as part of a global morpho-syntactic shift from a head-marking to a dependent-marking grammatical type. The conversion, possibly catalyzed by contact influences from Tibetan, is still ongoing with traces of the original system preserved in the form of alternating patterns. The phenomena under analysis constitute an intermediate stage in the evolution of Qiangic verbal agreement typology between the conservative Rgyalrong, Lavrung, and Shangzhai Horpa split-agreement type and the innovative subject-agreement type observed in Qiang and Prinmi.


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