The Semantics of Chinese Classifiers and Linguistic Relativity: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Semantics of Chinese Classifiers and Linguistic Relativity

1st Edition

By Song Jiang


216 pages

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Hardback: 9781138291331
pub: 2017-06-02
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The Semantics of Chinese Classifiers and Linguistic Relativity focuses on the semantic structure of Chinese classifiers under the cognitive linguistics framework, and the implications thereof on linguistic relativity and language acquisition. It examines the semantic correlation between a given classifier and its associated nouns. Nouns in Chinese, which are assigned specific classifiers according to their selected characteristics, reflect the process of human categorization. The concrete categories formed by the relationship between nouns and classifiers may serve to explain the conceptual structure of the Chinese language and certain underlying aspects of culture and human cognition.

Song Jiang is Assistant Professor of Chinese for the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at university of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Table of Contents


List of Figures

List of Tables


Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 Descriptive studies of Chinese classifiers: From traditional grammar to cognitive grammar

2.1 The Traditional Grammar Approach Toward Chinese and Chinese Classifiers

2.1.1 Chinese Grammar Under Western Influence

2.1.2 History of Terms Used for Chinese Classifiers

2.1.3 Y. R. Chao’s Definition and Classification of Chinese Classifiers

2.1.4 Discussion of Chao’s Definition and Classification of Chinese Measures

2.2 The Cognitive Linguistic View of Language and Classifiers

2.2.1 Cognitive Linguistics and Cognitive Semantics

2.2.2 Categorization: Prototype Theory and Radial Categories

2.2.3 Embodiment

2.2.4 Image Schema

2.2.5 Conceptual Metaphor and Metonymy

2.2.6 Polysemy

2.3 The Cognitive Approach to Chinese Classifiers

2.3.1 Distinction Between Classifiers and Measure Words: A Redefinition of Chinese Classifiers

2.3.2 The Cognition-based Functional Approach to Chinese Classifiers

2.4 Theoretical Framework, Methodology, and Expected Findings of the Present Study

2.4.1 Theoretical Framework

2.4.2 Methodology

2.4.3 Expected Findings

Chapter 3 Linguistic Relativity and Empirical Studies

3.1 Linguistic Relativity and the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

3.1.1 From Humboldt to Whorf

3.1.2 Interpretations of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

3.2 Empirical Studies on Linguistic Relativity

3.2.1 Lexical Categorization

3.2.2 Grammatical Categorization

Chapter 4 The Etymological Origins, Embodied Bases, and Semantic Extensions of Chinese Classifiers

4.1 Body Parts

4.1.1 The Head in General

4.1.2 The Top of the Head

4.1.3 The Neck

4.1.4 The Face and the Facial Features

4.1.5 Lower Appendages

4.1.6 Body Cavities

4.2 Bodily Actions

4.2.1 Head Movements

4.2.2 Manual Actions

4.2.3 Pedal and Ambulatory Actions

4.2.4 Posture

4.3 Plants, Trees, and Bamboo

4.3.1 Roots

4.3.2 Tree Branches and Twigs

4.3.3 Trunks

4.3.4 Flowers and Leaves

4.3.5 Wooden Strips

4.3.6 Seeds and Grains

4.4 Architecture, Construction, and Buildings

4.4.1 Structures and Buildings

4.4.2 Doors, Gates, and Entrances

4.4.3 Platforms and Foundations

4.4.4 Shed Frames and Ridge Poles

4.5 Textiles

4.5.1 Filaments

4.5.2 Quality of Silk

4.5.3 Woven Textiles

4.6 Vessels

4.6.1 Drinking Vessels

4.6.2 Actions Associated with Vessels

4.7 Vehicles

4.7.1 Wheels and Vehicles

4.7.2 Groups of Vehicles

4.7.3 Assembly of Vehicles

4.7.4 Actions of Vehicles

4.8 Soil, Rock, and Land

4.8.1 Soil

4.8.2 Rock and Stone

4.8.3 Land

4.9 Discussion

Chapter 5 The Semantic Structures of Classifier Categories: A Case Study of Body-Part Based Classifiers

5.1 The Semantic Structures of the Head-based Classifiers首 (shǒu "head"), 頭 (tóu "head"), and 顆 ( "small head")

5.2 The Semantic Structure of the Top of the Head Originated Classifier 頂 (dǐng "top of the head")

5.3 The Semantic Structure of Neck Based Classifier 項 (xiàng "nape")

5.4 The Semantic Structure of Face and Facial Features Based Classifiers 面 (miàn "face"), 口 (koǔ "mouth")

5.5 The Semantic Structure of Cavity in Human Body Based Classifier 腔 (qiāng "cavity")

5.6 Discussion

Chapter 6 Cognitive Effects of Chinese Classifiers

6.1 Studies of Chinese Classifiers for Linguistic Relativity

6.2 The Current Research

6.3 Experimental Design

6.4 Experiment 1: Picture-only Similarity Tests on Chinese and English Native Speakers

6.5 Experiment 2: Picture-only Similarity Tests on English Native Speakers with Chinese Language Proficiency at Intermediate Level or Above

6.6 Experiment 3: Picture-with-label Triadic Similarity Tests on Chinese Native Speakers

6.7 Results of Group Comparison

6.8 Discussion

Chapter 7 Cognitive Linguistics and Teaching Chinese Classifiers as a Second Language

Chapter 8 Conclusion


APPENDIX A: Consent Form

APPENDIX B: List of Stimulus Sets

APPENDIX C: Experiment Instructions

About the Author

Song Jiang is assistant professor of Chinese for the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Chinese Linguistics

Routledge Studies in Chinese Linguistics is a state-of-the-art book series showcasing high quality research on the linguistics of the Chinese language. Titles in the series range from seminal classics to cutting edge studies in the field, and comprise both research monographs and edited volumes.

Contributions are welcomed from all areas of linguistic study applied to the Chinese language, including but not limited to phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, stylistics, sociolinguistics, language and communication, historical linguistics, dialectology, language acquisition, language pedagogy, corpus linguistics, bilingualism and Chinese for specific purposes, etc.

Published in English, titles in the series will be of great interest to postgraduate students and scholars in the fields of Chinese language and linguistics.

If you have a book proposal or idea in mind that might be suitable for the series, please contact the series editor Hongming Zhang of the University of Wisconsin-Madison ( For more information on submitting a proposal to Routledge, please visit

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