Metaphorization and metonymization: Diachronic development of verbs of volition in Southern Min

Miao Hsia Chang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates the diachrony of the verbs of volition ai and beh in Southern Min (SM). The data include historical SM texts (16 th-19 th century), folk songs in the late 19 th to early 20 th century, and contemporary natural Taiwanese Southern Min conversations. The results mainly mark two stages of the development of ai and beh: historical (before 1900) and contemporary SM. Since the 16 th century (Ming Dynasty), ai has been used as a verb of volition indicating love, intention or hope. As for historical ai, it marked future, specialized however for predicting an adverse future. In contemporary SM, a sense of necessity emerged with the use of ai denoting general agreement among people. Seven senses are attributed to historical beh: want/intention/hope, future, excessiveness, necessity, proximity and conditionality. In contemporary SM, the indication of the want of an entity has become a less preferred use, and necessity is only preserved when indicating puzzlement and helplessness. The diachronic developments of ai and beh demonstrate an interplay of metaphorization and metonymization (Traugott and Dasher 2002:27). Metaphorization contributes first to the semantic shift of ai and beh from "to want; to love" to "to intend to" and a concurrent categorical change from lexical verb into auxiliary, and second, to the evolution of future. Metonymization activates an even wider range of uses and meaning change, including the pragmatic strengthening of interpretations such as excessiveness (beh), necessity (ai, beh), proximity (beh) and conditional (beh), and prediction of an undesirable future (ai).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-83
Number of pages31
JournalTaiwan Journal of Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Mar


  • Diachronic development
  • Grammaticalization
  • Metaphorization
  • Metonymization
  • Southern Min
  • Verbs of volition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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