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25 - The Chinese Classifier System as a Lexical-semantic System

from Part Four - Syntax-semantics, Pragmatics, and Discourse Issues

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2022

Chu-Ren Huang
Affiliation:
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Yen-Hwei Lin
Affiliation:
Michigan State University
I-Hsuan Chen
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Yu-Yin Hsu
Affiliation:
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
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Summary

This chapter shows that treating the Chinese classifier system as a lexicalized semantic system based on shared ontology predicts both the agreement patterns that motivate the structure-based accounts, and the semantic selection patterns that motivate the cognition-based accounts. In the chapter, different perspectives toward classifiers are introduced including a cognition-based account (predicting a strong correlation with perception that is also robust and without exceptions but allows some fuzzy, overlapping classifications) and a structure-based account (predicting a strongly binary classification and a robust grammaticality judgement). Controversial issues regarding Chinese classifiers, such as the distinction between classifiers and measure words, the agreement between a classifier and its head noun, and the nature of 的 DE insertion, are explicated to show the pros and cons of various approaches. The authors demonstrate that Chinese classifiers are coherently organized in a ontology-driven lexical-semantic system. Major unresolved issues in the Mandarin classifiers system are closely examined at the end of the chapter.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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