Antonymous Adjectives in Disyllabic Lexical Compounds in Mandarin: A Cognitive Linguistics Perspective
Zhang, Yuan; Kemmer, Suzanne
Corpus-based research into antonyms in English, Sweden and Japanese has gradually brought the lexical relation of antonymy into functional-cognitive linguistics in recent years. When antonymous adjectives are examined in Mandarin corpora, we find that they co-occur in both discontinuous constructions, for example, 既不热也不冷ji bure ye buleng, literally not hot also not cold, 'neither hot nor cold', and lexical compounds, often called disyllabic compounds, for example, 大小da xiao, literally big-small, 'size'. This study is a cognitive account of Mandarin disyllabic compound constructions composed of two antonymous adjective roots, such as长短chang duan, literally long-short, 'length', 左右zuo you, literally left-right, 'control', and 反正 fan zheng, literally back-face, 'anyway'. With the help of the Lancaster corpus of Mandarin Chinese (LCMC) and the corpus from the Center for Chinese Linguistics (CCL), 51 instances of antonymous adjective compounds were retrieved. When the antonymous adjectives co-occur, there are interactions between the componential semantics and the constructional semantics. While the disyllabic compound constructions may inherit the part of speech from their components, they may also have their own part of speech, functioning as nouns, adverbs and even verbs. The different categories reflect different construals of the same conceptual content. In a nutshell, by adopting a cognitive linguistics approach, we show that the different uses of these compounds are related in a systematic way.
antonymous adjectives; disyllabic lexical compounds; cognitive linguistics