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LINGUIST List 24.4096

Thu Oct 17 2013

Review: Historical Linguistics; Syntax: Li (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 31-May-2013
From: Ksenia Antonyan <kvantonianyandex.ru>
Subject: Lexicalisation patterns in Japanese and Chinese
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-4079.html

AUTHOR: Wenchao Li
TITLE: Lexicalisation patterns in Japanese and Chinese
SUBTITLE: A Synchronic and a Diachronic Perspective
SERIES TITLE: LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 79
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Ksenia Antonyan, Institute of Linguistics RAS

The study deals with lexicalization patterns in Japanese and Chinese,
synchronically and diachronically. ‘Lexicalization’ is used by the author as
a synonym for ‘verbalization’. It does not mean, as one could expect, the
transformation of a phrase into a single lexical unit (see, for example, Xing

The study is based on ideas proposed by Leonard Talmy (1975, 1985, elsewhere).
The author also uses ideas and methods from Construction Grammar (Fillmore &
Kay 1992, Goldberg 1995, Langacker 1987, 1991), the Lexical Constructional
Model (Ruiz de Mendoza & Mairal 2006), and the Frame Semantic Model (Fillmore
& Atkins 1992, 1994, Goldberg 1995). The author distinguishes verb framing,
satellite framing, and equipollent framing. The study investigates the models
of lexicalization of motion and change of state (COS) events. The central
point of the study resides in how the core schema of a motion event is

The author believes that the study of lexicalization in Japanese and Chinese
is of particular interest to lexical semantics for at least three reasons:

(1) morphosyntactic difference between Chinese and Japanese, i.e. the general
typological difference between the two languages;
(2) the material of the languages in focus allows to apply and verify the idea
of equipollent framing proposed in Slobin, 2004 and 2006;
(3) diachronic factors: the two languages possess a large period of documented
history, so the analysis of the data from Old Japanese and Old Chinese could
provide a picture of the development of lexicalization patterns within a
language and across languages.

The aim is to uncover how the lexical, morphological and syntactic resources
of two languages, Japanese and Chinese, play essential roles when it comes to
deciding which component of events is characteristically rendered and with
what preference.

The book consists of 6 chapters. Chapter 1 critically discusses research in
the domain of lexicalization. It also briefly introduces event framing of
motion and COS events in the two languages in focus. Chapter 1 also introduces
the main theoretical notions used in the study, such as ‘satellite’, ‘path’,
‘verb’, ‘figure and ground NP’ and outlines the cross-linguistically valid
criteria for them. Chapter 2 presents the framework and methodology used for
this study. Chapter 3 analyses the grammatical elements that render motion/COS
constructions in Modern Japanese and looks at what means are used to convey
motion and resultative core schema. Chapter 4 uncovers how different levels of
grammatical elements interact in rendering motion/COS events into linguistic
expressions in Modern Chinese. It particularly considers constructions with
serial verbs and enumerates the possibilities for how path can be conflated.
Chapter 5 deals with the diachronic study of event framing in Old Japanese and
Old Chinese so as to ascertain trends in the development of conflation
patterning and preference. Chapter 6 discusses the results and highlights the
decisive role of the lexical, morphological and syntactic aspects and outlines
the theoretical and typological implications of the study.

The main results are the following. Synchronically, the two languages show a
certain degree of similarity in the way they render the core schema of an
event, such as through verb compounds.

The morphosyntactic level mainly facilitates lexicalization in Modern Japanese
and it turns out that Japanese is not a pure verb-framed language: events with
path conveyed via verb root, open-scale adjectival predicates (APs),
means/cause/manner V-V, complement relation V-V, and participle complex
predicate exhibit verb-framed behaviour, events with path rendered by
closed-scale APs or postpositions (PPs) suggest satellite framing, and events
with path conflated in pair relation V-V present equipollent framing.

For Modern Chinese, lexicalization occurs at the level of lexical and
syntactic interface. The finding brings the author to the point that
equipollent framing is not valid in relation to Chinese serial verb
constructions (SVCs), as the multi-morphemes in SVCs are not equipollent, i.e.
the first constituent describes the manner, the second indicates the path, and
the third the deictic. Crucially, the third constituent ranks lower than the
second constituent.

Diachronically, Japanese and Chinese have undeniable similarities in favouring
a single verb to convey the core schema but meanwhile the two present
distinctions in regard to morphology, i.e. prefix, preverb, and incorporated

Modern Japanese has a quite developed lexicon of path verbs, APs, PPs,
boundary markers, verb compounds, participle complex predicates, biclausals
and ideophones. If it is necessary to express change of location in Japanese,
thus including information on both path and manner in the verb, we might
happen to have an adequate manner verb and it may be followed by a boundary
marker, which is necessary to express the endpoint of motion. Alternatively,
we may use other means available, e.g. verb compounds, to encode both manner
and path or express manner in some other way, such as participle complex
predicates, biclausals and ideophones.

Modern Chinese contains manner verbs, path verbs, particles, SVCs, verb
compounds, and adverbials and yields three options: (a) conveying manner on a
verb and path on a particle; (b) incorporating path by a verb and manner via
an adverbial; and (c) conflating both manner and path in verbs. Chinese
combines the characteristics of a verb-framed and a satellite-framed language,
which suggests that the distinction between verb-, satellite- and
equipollent-framed languages should be regarded as a continuum rather than a
dichotomy or three-way typology.

Diachronically, the study establishes: (a) how different levels of resources
(lexical, morphological and syntactical) interact in rendering a motion event
into a linguistic expression in Old Japanese and Old Chinese; and (b) if there
is a trend suggesting the development of the lexicalization in the two
languages shifting from one type towards another.

Lexicalization occurs at the level of morphosyntax in Old Japanese. Path can
be conveyed via a prefix, verb root, particle, directional complement, and
verb compounding. SVCs are rather limited in number. In Early Middle Japanese,
morphology plays a crucial role. Therefore, equipollent framing is the most
common option with regard to motion constructions rendered by complex
predicates. In early Middle Japanese the combinations of multiple verbs seem
much tighter, which results in a preference for verb framing in multi-verb

Motion constructions in Old Chinese tended to favour a single verb. The
preverb, incorporated noun, and complement uses indicate that morphosyntax
plays a decisive role, unlike in Modern Chinese. Crucially, there is a
three-stage trend suggesting the development of Chinese event shifting from
verb framing towards satellite framing to equipollent framing.

The study’s main merit is bringing into discussion data from two genetically
and typologically distinct languages, Chinese and Japanese, and exploring them
from a specific and fascinating typological angle. Unexpectedly, the two
languages show a certain degree of similarity in the way they render the core
schema of an event. The study is based on thorough analysis of a great amount
of linguistic data, both synchronic and diachronic.

The study is full of interesting typological findings. The most important
include the following. The components of Chinese SVCs are not equipollent:
i.e. the first constituent describes the manner, the second indicates the
path, and the third the deictic. The third constituent ranks lower than the
second. Chinese combines the characteristics of a verb-framed and a
satellite-framed language, which suggests that the distinction between verb-,
satellite- and equipollent-framed languages should be regarded as a continuum
rather than a dichotomy or three-way typology. The author shows convincingly
that there is a three-stage trend suggesting the development of Chinese event
framing shifting from verb framing towards satellite framing to equipollent
framing. For Modern Japanese, it is the morphosyntactic level that mainly
facilitates lexicalization in it and it turns out that Japanese is not a pure
verb-framed language. These findings are important for Chinese and Japanese
studies, linguistic typology and cognitive science.

In a critical vein, some statements are not absolutely correct. So, it is
incorrect to speak of the “the syntactical evolution that took place in the
Han period” (p. 152), meaning the development of SVCs and the
grammaticalization of path verbs. The Han period (206 B.C.-220 A.D.,
Pre-Medieval Chinese) just gave start to the development of SVCs, the
development of the resultative and directional constructions and,
consequently, the grammaticalization of certain resultative and directional
complements (path verbs). These processes went on in Medieval Chinese (from
the 3rd c. to the 13th c. A.D.), took centuries (see Sun 1996, Shi 2002, Xu
2006), and are still going on now. Only in Medieval Chinese can we speak of
syntactic evolution. (This periodization of Chinese is from Peyraube 1988. For
others, see Tai and Chan 1999).

The references are also often problematic. On p. 33 she mentions Talmy 1983,
but we don’t find this paper in the bibliography, nor Fillmore and Kay 1992
(mentioned on p. 26 as ‘Fillmore and Key 1993’ -- with mistakes in the name
and date). There are many similar examples. Some abbreviations are missing in
the list of abbreviations, e.g. AP (adjectival predicate), PP (postposition)
(pp. vii-viii). This extends to abbreviations of Old Japanese literary works
on p. 133.

The book is not free of other mistakes and typographical errors. “Analects” by
Confucius -- one of the main Chinese classics -- is dated back to 700 B.C. (p.
182), whereas it should be c. 400 B.C. (see “The Indiana Companion to
Traditional Chinese Literature”, p. 310). There are two mistakes in the
Russian example (p. 222) (`u’ instead of `v’ in two words: it should be
‘vbežal v komnatu’, and not ‘ubežal u komnatu’) (p. 156; the author mentions
that the example is from Levin and Rappaport-Hovav 1998a: 257; however, that
paper is missing from the list of references) and in German example (223b)
‘überstretu’ instead of ‘überstreut’ on p. 156. There is a mistake in the
Contents (p. ix): Table 13 is on p.133, not 132. Again, this list is not

The larger problem with this study is that it is based on numerous, but
unsystematic examples from texts and linguistic corpora. This does not give a
full picture of the means that the languages in question use in order to
express motion or change of state. The reader does not learn what types of
constructions are most typical, which are neutral and which constructions are
stylistically marked.

It is a pity that the research is done, as the author herself puts it,
“without aiming to contrast the frequency statistics of the two” languages
(pp. 42-43). As a result, the book presents rather a list of constructions
used in Chinese and Japanese for the verbalization of motion/COS events
without much comparison per se.

In my opinion, the comparison of means used by the two languages in focus to
lexicalize motion/COS events could include, for example, the following steps:
either taking a certain set of situations of physical motion and analyzing how
they are verbalized in the languages under research (cf. Slobin 2004); or
taking a limited corpus of texts and classifying all the constructions
expressing motion/COS events. This could produce comparable statistic pictures
for the two languages. I hope that the author will continue her research and
do something along these lines. This book presents an excellent foundation for
such comparison, and comparison with other languages as well.

The book will be of particular interest for students of Chinese and Japanese,
including historical linguists, as well as typologists and specialists in
cognitive science. The book will also be useful for second language
acquisition, language teaching and translation.

Peyraube, Alain. 1988. Syntaxe Diachronique du Chinois: Évolution des
Constructions Datives du XIVe Siècle av. J.-C. au XVIIIe Siècle. Paris:
Institut des Hautes Études Chinoises, Collège de France.

Shi, Yuzhi. 2002. The Establishment of Modern Chinese Grammar. The Formation
of the Resultative Construction and its Effects. John Benjamins Publishing

Slobin, Dan. 2004. The Many Ways to Search for a Frog: Linguistic typology and
the expression of motion events // S. Strömqvist & L. Verhoeven (eds).
Relating Events in Narrative: Typological and Contextual Perspectives.

Slobin, Dan. 2006. What makes manner of motion salient? Explorations in
linguistic typology, discourse, and cognition // M. Hackmann & S. Robert
(eds). Space in languages: Linguistic Systems and Cognitive Categories.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Sun, Chaofen. 1996. Word-Order Change and Grammaticalization in the History of
Chinese. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Tai, James H.-Y. and Chan, Marjorie K.M. 1999. Some Reflections on the
Periodization of the Chinese Language // Studies in Chinese Historical Syntax
and Morphology: Linguistic Essays in Honor of Mei Tsu-lin, [Collection des
Cahiers de Linguistique d'Asie Orientale], ed. by Alain Peyraube and Chaofen
Sun. Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.

Talmy. Leonard. 1975. Semantics and Syntax of Motion // Kimball, J. (ed).
Syntax and Semantics. Vol. 4. New York: Academic Press.

Talmy, Leonard. 1985. Lexicalization Patterns: Semantic Structure in Lexical
Forms // Shopen, T. (ed.) Language Typology and Syntactic Description. Vol. 3.
Grammatical Categories and the Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature. 1986. Nienhauser W.H.
(ed. and compiler). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Wu, Fuxiang. 1996. Dunhuang bianwen yufa yanjiu (Research on the Grammar of
Dunhuang bianwen). Changsha: Yuelu shushe.

Xing, Janet Zhiqun (ed.). 2012. Newest Trends in the Study of
Grammaticalization and Lexicalization in Chinese. Trends in Linguistics.
Studies and Monographs 236. De Gruyter Mouton.

Xu, Dan. 2006. Typological Change in Chinese Syntax. Oxford: Oxford University

Ksenia V. Antonyan (Antonian) is senior research fellow at the Department of
East and Southeast Asian Languages at the Institute of Linguistics, Russian
Academy of Sciences (Moscow). Her field of research is Modern Chinese grammar,
verb compounds and the phenomena of grammaticalization and lexicalization. She
published a book “Morphology of Resultative Constructions in Chinese” (Moscow:
Muravei, 2003; in Russian, English summary) and has taught three courses:
Chinese, Theory of Chinese Grammar and History of Chinese Grammar at Russian
State University for Humanities (Moscow).
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