Article published in:Corpus Approaches to Language, Thought and Communication
Edited by Wei-lun Lu, Naděžda Kudrnáčová and Laura A. Janda
[Review of Cognitive Linguistics 17:1] 2019
► pp. 113–130
The near-synonymy of classifiers and construal operation
A corpus-based study of 棵 kē and 株 zhū in Chinese
This paper investigates the near-synonymy of classifiers, using Chinese kē and zhū as illustration. We find that in [quantifier] – [classifier] – [noun], the two classifiers have overlapping semantic prototypes due to their similar behavioral profiles. However, despite a shared functional core, the two classifiers diverge in terms of which part of plant to profile. In particular, zhū highlights parts of plant that are small and vulnerable, such as flowers and seedlings. In addition, small is another important conceptual characteristic exclusively associated with zhū, which gives it a distinctive set of peripheral members to include in that particular linguistic category, including mold, bacterium, and even biological and chemical substance. Another important difference is the quantifier that precedes, where kē tends to occur with lower numbers (typically under 10), while zhū with higher numbers (typically over 1,000). Accordingly, we conclude that [quantifier] – [zhu] – [noun] tends to invoke a higher-resolution construal.
Keywords: classifier, construal, quantifier, synonymy, Chinese
Published online: 20 August 2019
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