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Review of  Lexicalisation patterns in Japanese and Chinese

Reviewer: Ksenia Antonyan
Book Title: Lexicalisation patterns in Japanese and Chinese
Book Author: Wenchao Li
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin
Issue Number: 24.4096

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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 2012).

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 encoded.

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 noun.

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 constructions.

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 complete.

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 Company.

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 Press.
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).