Erlewine, Michael Yoshitaka and Anne Nguyen, to appear.
“Ingredients of excess: A study of Vietnamese quá.”
Asian Languages and Linguistics.
We describe the various uses of the Vietnamese morpheme quá which appears in excessive constructions. Unlike most other degree morphemes in Vietnamese, quá can precede or follow its gradable predicate, and we argue that these two different uses convey excess in very different ways: pre-predicate quá encodes purpose-oriented excessive truth conditions, whereas post-predicate quá is a comparative which projects a not-at-issue malefactive inference. We propose that the two constructions trace back to pre- and post-predicate 過 kua‘ in Middle Chinese, motivated by comparisons with corresponding cognate constructions in contemporary Chinese languages. We additionally describe two other uses of quá, as an intensifier with speaker commitment and as an exclamative marker, and explain how they developed from the excessives. This study thus offers an explanatory account of the various uses of this multifunctional expression and the relationships between them, grounded in the history of the language and in principles of semantic change.