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Compositionality of Chinese idioms: the issues, the semantic approach and a case study

Compositionality of Chinese idioms: the issues, the semantic approach and a case study Abstract Idioms – or something like idioms – occupy a special place as a speech genre in languages. It is compelling that the issues of what idioms are (or are not) and how they distinguish themselves from other related, though different, linguistic and phraseological categories, are of concern to all. This paper first examines various linguistic issues concerning the idiom genre before going into a detailed discussion about the chengyu in Chinese, which is an approximate yet by no means identical counterpart of the idiom as it is understood in English. It is argued that, as phrasal structures, Chinese chengyu s are not all lexically fixed, neither are they all semantically non-compositional. By virtue of the example of the sememe zhong lit. ‘(bronze) bell’ and its incorporation into certain chengyu s, it is demonstrated that the sememic constituents of a chengyu can be only not compositionally significant semantically speaking but also, they may well hold the key to the reason why the literal meaning of a chengyu should be closely integrated into its intended, idiomatic (figurative) meaning. Chengyu s that incorporate the sememe zhong comprise an idiomatic analogy and, in fact, zhong as a lexical item is represented in the content of this analogy as a cognitively real element. This paper adopts the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) framework as the basis for semantic analyses of such chengyu s. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Applied Linguistics Review de Gruyter

Compositionality of Chinese idioms: the issues, the semantic approach and a case study

Applied Linguistics Review , Volume 7 (2) – Jun 1, 2016

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 by the
ISSN
1868-6303
eISSN
1868-6311
DOI
10.1515/applirev-2016-0007
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract Idioms – or something like idioms – occupy a special place as a speech genre in languages. It is compelling that the issues of what idioms are (or are not) and how they distinguish themselves from other related, though different, linguistic and phraseological categories, are of concern to all. This paper first examines various linguistic issues concerning the idiom genre before going into a detailed discussion about the chengyu in Chinese, which is an approximate yet by no means identical counterpart of the idiom as it is understood in English. It is argued that, as phrasal structures, Chinese chengyu s are not all lexically fixed, neither are they all semantically non-compositional. By virtue of the example of the sememe zhong lit. ‘(bronze) bell’ and its incorporation into certain chengyu s, it is demonstrated that the sememic constituents of a chengyu can be only not compositionally significant semantically speaking but also, they may well hold the key to the reason why the literal meaning of a chengyu should be closely integrated into its intended, idiomatic (figurative) meaning. Chengyu s that incorporate the sememe zhong comprise an idiomatic analogy and, in fact, zhong as a lexical item is represented in the content of this analogy as a cognitively real element. This paper adopts the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) framework as the basis for semantic analyses of such chengyu s.

Journal

Applied Linguistics Reviewde Gruyter

Published: Jun 1, 2016

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