LINGUIST List 24.4096

Thu Oct 17 2013

Review: Historical Linguistics; Syntax: Li (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 31-May-2013
From: Ksenia Antonyan <>
Subject: Lexicalisation patterns in Japanese and Chinese
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AUTHOR: Wenchao LiTITLE: Lexicalisation patterns in Japanese and ChineseSUBTITLE: A Synchronic and a Diachronic PerspectiveSERIES TITLE: LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 79PUBLISHER: Lincom GmbHYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Ksenia Antonyan, Institute of Linguistics RAS

SUMMARYThe study deals with lexicalization patterns in Japanese and Chinese,synchronically and diachronically. ‘Lexicalization’ is used by the author asa synonym for ‘verbalization’. It does not mean, as one could expect, thetransformation of a phrase into a single lexical unit (see, for example, Xing2012).

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 ConstructionalModel (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 modelsof lexicalization of motion and change of state (COS) events. The centralpoint of the study resides in how the core schema of a motion event isencoded.

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

(1) morphosyntactic difference between Chinese and Japanese, i.e. the generaltypological difference between the two languages;(2) the material of the languages in focus allows to apply and verify the ideaof equipollent framing proposed in Slobin, 2004 and 2006;(3) diachronic factors: the two languages possess a large period of documentedhistory, so the analysis of the data from Old Japanese and Old Chinese couldprovide a picture of the development of lexicalization patterns within alanguage and across languages.

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

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

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

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

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

Diachronically, Japanese and Chinese have undeniable similarities in favouringa single verb to convey the core schema but meanwhile the two presentdistinctions in regard to morphology, i.e. prefix, preverb, and incorporatednoun.

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

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

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

Lexicalization occurs at the level of morphosyntax in Old Japanese. Path canbe conveyed via a prefix, verb root, particle, directional complement, andverb compounding. SVCs are rather limited in number. In Early Middle Japanese,morphology plays a crucial role. Therefore, equipollent framing is the mostcommon option with regard to motion constructions rendered by complexpredicates. In early Middle Japanese the combinations of multiple verbs seemmuch tighter, which results in a preference for verb framing in multi-verbconstructions.

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

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

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

In a critical vein, some statements are not absolutely correct. So, it isincorrect to speak of the “the syntactical evolution that took place in theHan period” (p. 152), meaning the development of SVCs and thegrammaticalization of path verbs. The Han period (206 B.C.-220 A.D.,Pre-Medieval Chinese) just gave start to the development of SVCs, thedevelopment of the resultative and directional constructions and,consequently, the grammaticalization of certain resultative and directionalcomplements (path verbs). These processes went on in Medieval Chinese (fromthe 3rd c. to the 13th c. A.D.), took centuries (see Sun 1996, Shi 2002, Xu2006), and are still going on now. Only in Medieval Chinese can we speak ofsyntactic evolution. (This periodization of Chinese is from Peyraube 1988. Forothers, 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 nameand date). There are many similar examples. Some abbreviations are missing inthe list of abbreviations, e.g. AP (adjectival predicate), PP (postposition)(pp. vii-viii). This extends to abbreviations of Old Japanese literary workson p. 133.

The book is not free of other mistakes and typographical errors. “Analects” byConfucius -- 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 toTraditional Chinese Literature”, p. 310). There are two mistakes in theRussian 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 mentionsthat the example is from Levin and Rappaport-Hovav 1998a: 257; however, thatpaper is missing from the list of references) and in German example (223b)‘überstretu’ instead of ‘überstreut’ on p. 156. There is a mistake in theContents (p. ix): Table 13 is on p.133, not 132. Again, this list is notcomplete.

The larger problem with this study is that it is based on numerous, butunsystematic examples from texts and linguistic corpora. This does not give afull picture of the means that the languages in question use in order toexpress motion or change of state. The reader does not learn what types ofconstructions are most typical, which are neutral and which constructions arestylistically 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 constructionsused in Chinese and Japanese for the verbalization of motion/COS eventswithout much comparison per se.

In my opinion, the comparison of means used by the two languages in focus tolexicalize motion/COS events could include, for example, the following steps:either taking a certain set of situations of physical motion and analyzing howthey are verbalized in the languages under research (cf. Slobin 2004); ortaking a limited corpus of texts and classifying all the constructionsexpressing motion/COS events. This could produce comparable statistic picturesfor the two languages. I hope that the author will continue her research anddo something along these lines. This book presents an excellent foundation forsuch 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 incognitive science. The book will also be useful for second languageacquisition, language teaching and translation.

REFERENCESPeyraube, Alain. 1988. Syntaxe Diachronique du Chinois: Évolution desConstructions 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 Formationof the Resultative Construction and its Effects. John Benjamins PublishingCompany.

Slobin, Dan. 2004. The Many Ways to Search for a Frog: Linguistic typology andthe 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 inlinguistic 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 ofChinese. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Tai, James H.-Y. and Chan, Marjorie K.M. 1999. Some Reflections on thePeriodization of the Chinese Language // Studies in Chinese Historical Syntaxand Morphology: Linguistic Essays in Honor of Mei Tsu-lin, [Collection desCahiers de Linguistique d'Asie Orientale], ed. by Alain Peyraube and ChaofenSun. 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 LexicalForms // 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 ofDunhuang bianwen). Changsha: Yuelu shushe.

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

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

ABOUT THE REVIEWERKsenia V. Antonyan (Antonian) is senior research fellow at the Department ofEast and Southeast Asian Languages at the Institute of Linguistics, RussianAcademy of Sciences (Moscow). Her field of research is Modern Chinese grammar,verb compounds and the phenomena of grammaticalization and lexicalization. Shepublished 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 RussianState University for Humanities (Moscow).

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