Article published in:Cognitive Linguistic Aspects of Information Structure and Flow
Edited by Wei-lun Lu and Jirí Lukl
[Cognitive Linguistic Studies 7:2] 2020
► pp. 416–439
Bidirectional transfers of the ditransitive construction in Chinese
The Chinese ditransitive construction expresses the ‘bidirectional’ transfers: the movement of the patient either (a) from the subject to indirect object or (b) from the indirect object to subject, a feature that has not been identified in other languages. This construction is thus different from the ditransitive construction in English and other languages whose ditransitive constructions can express only a ‘single-direction’ transfer: the movement of the patient from the subject to indirect object only. This article addresses the reason for the unusual functions of the ditransitive construction in Chinese. A parallel difference between these two languages is found in the semantic structures of those ditransitive verbs: Chinese coins a single verb to express the same type of ‘transfer’ action with opposite directions, but English usually invents two distinct verbs to denote the two antonymous meanings whose directions are opposite; e.g., the Chinese verb jiè subsumes the meanings of both borrow and lend in English. This article argues that the different meanings of the ditransitive constructions of Chinese and English result from the different conceptualizations of their ditransitive verbs. In construction grammar, the following question remains unanswered: where does the meaning of the construction come from? The present analysis provides evidence that the meanings of the verbs within the construction are capable of determining the meaning/function of the whole construction.
Keywords: ditransitive construction, construction grammar, English and Chinese, transfer verb, usage-based model
Published online: 01 October 2020
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