On the Formation of Verb Compounds in Early Middle Japanese


  • Wenchao LI Zhejiang University, China




Old Japanese, Early Middle Japanese, verb compounds, argument structure, grammaticalisation


This paper is dedicated to the formation of verb compounds in Early Middle Japanese, a stage of the Japanese language used in the Heian Period (794–1185). The findings reveal that current verb compounds have come a long way from Old Japanese. Multiple verbs in Old Japanese are assigned to an associate type, rather than a compounding type of relation. Thus, the serial constituents receive equal syntactic weight, giving rise to the extensive use of the coordinate type and succession type of multi-verbs. In Early Middle Japanese, the combinations of the two constituents seem much tighter, giving rise the frequent use of the modifier-predicate V-V. The conclusion emerging from this study is that it was not until Early Middle Japanese that verb compounds in the strict sense appeared. Moreover, two types of verb weakening are observed in Early Middle Japanese: (a) transformation of the first verb into a prefix, (b) grammaticalization of the second verb into a directional/resultative complement.


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Author Biography

Wenchao LI, Zhejiang University, China

School of International Studies


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Li, W. (2012). Lexicalisation patterns in Japanese and Chinese: A synchronic and a diachronic perspective. Lincom Europa: Munich.

Li, W. (2011). A Comparison of Event Framing in Old Chinese and Old Japanese. Acta Linguistica Asiatica, 1(2), 57–72.




How to Cite

LI, W. (2013). On the Formation of Verb Compounds in Early Middle Japanese. Acta Linguistica Asiatica, 3(2), 25–40. https://doi.org/10.4312/ala.3.2.25-40



Research articles