Frames of reference and the encoding of spatial location in Mandarin Chinese
This article attempts to account for how the static spatial relations of location between objects are encoded in Mandarin Chinese with Levinson’s notions of frames of reference and Talmy’s concept of Figure-Ground relations as theoretical guidance. Space is relational in nature, and spatial relations are embodied concepts that are at the heart of our conceptual system. That’s why they cannot be seen in the way physical objects are observed. Accordingly, I am inclined to propose that spatial relations are not natural entities in the physical world, but abstract ones that are construed and conceptualized subjectively by human beings. In accordance with the relational nature of space, Mandarin Chinese speakers usually encode the abstract spatial relation X Spatially Relates To Y into a linguistic representation as X V Y (P) where P is optional, when a pure static spatial relation of location between objects is construed, or into a linguistic representation as X VP zài Y P where VP stands for verbs of posture, when the object being located is conceived as being spatially related in a certain manner with respect to the reference object. Usually, such linguistic representations as X V Y (P) and X VP zài Y P are usually realized in Mandarin Chinese as two types of locative constructions: spatial relation constructions of containment/enclosure and spatial relation constructions of proximity/adjacency. What’s more, though locative constructions are related in some way to existential constructions in Mandarin Chinese, they are actually distinct from each other in three ways from a cognitive linguistics perspective: (i) they encode different spatial relations, (ii) they reveal different Figure-Ground relations, and (iii) there is a difference in definiteness of the two nominals involved.
Keywords: frames of reference, Figure-Ground relations, spatial location, encoding, spatial relation constructions, Mandarin Chinese
- 2.Frames of reference
- 3.Figure-ground relations
- 4.Localizers as spatial postpositions
- 5.Encoding of spatial location in Mandarin Chinese
- 5.1Spatial relations and spatial relation constructions
- 5.2Encoding of spatial location in Mandarin Chinese
- 5.2.1 X V Y (P) encoding a contained-container or an enclosed-enclosure relation
- 5.2.2 X V Y P encoding a proximity or adjacency relation
- 5.2.3 X VP zài Y P encoding a spatial relation with some manner of OL involved
- 6.Concluding remarks
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Published online: 16 March 2018
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