The cognitive semantics of Chinese motion / directional verbs

Hui Yin


This study investigates basic and extended meanings of Chinese motion/directional verbs, which are used frequently in metaphorical extensions. By looking at metaphorical uses in language, I hope to contribute to our understanding of the human conceptual system, which is assumed to be largely metaphorical in nature. One motion/directional verb in Chinese can combine with another to form a compound. Motion/directional verbs/compounds easily enter into a variety of larger constructions and they are frequently used with different senses. Cognitive Grammar (Langacker, 1987, 1988, 1991 & 2008) assumes that a single word is routinely polysemous in its various linguistic expressions. This paper will show that various senses of Chinese motion/directional verbs are actually related. I assume that extensions from the spatial domain to the temporal domain and from the concrete domain to the abstract domain could be found across motion/directional verbs. I will look at motivations behind extension patterns by addressing questions related to pairs of motion/directional verbs. Some verbs used frequently with one paired motion/directional verb are not likely to be compounded with the other due to their semantic (in)compatibility (Yin, 2010). Semantic and functional extensions may be based on a certain component of the total meaning of a lexical item while the other aspects of the meaning are non-salient. I argue that all the extensions are not random but motivated.

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria