From Lexical Semantics to Traditional Ecological Knowledge: On Precipitation, Condensation and Suspension Expressions in Chinese

Chu Ren Huang, Sicong Dong

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Precipitation, condensation and suspension are different meteorological events involving water in different forms. They are conceptualised and conventionalised with various verbal constructions in Sinitic languages. In this paper, we analyse data from three Mandarin varieties and 229 Sinitic languages, as well as materials from Old Chinese, to support the claim that there is an underlying shared conceptualisation scheme to account for all the variations, and that traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) can be extracted based on the directionality expressed by these linguistic constructions and PoS of weather words. Specifically, we found that across all Mandarin varieties and Sinitic languages, the weather verbs for precipitation (e.g., rain, snow and hail) typically represent downward movement and the weather phenomena words can typically act as verbs in Old Chinese. On the other hand, although the weather verbs for condensation (e.g., dew and frost) also tend to represent downward movement but the weather nouns typically do not have verbal usage in Old Chinese. Lastly, the weather verbs for suspension (e.g., fog and mist) are directionally uncertain and cannot function as a verb in Old Chinese either. The radicalshared by Chinese characters denoting these phenomena provided the conceptual ground for morpho-semantic and grammatical behaviours based on Hantology. Our findings not only have important implications for linguistic ontology and lexical semantics, but also lend support to the emerging area of language-based reconstruction of TEK.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChinese Lexical Semantics - 20th Workshop, CLSW 2019, Revised Selected Papers
EditorsJia-Fei Hong, Yangsen Zhang, Pengyuan Liu
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9783030381882
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
Event20th Chinese Lexical Semantics Workshop, CLSW 2019 - Beijing, China
Duration: 28 Jun 201930 Jun 2019

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume11831 LNAI
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference20th Chinese Lexical Semantics Workshop, CLSW 2019


  • Chinese
  • Condensation
  • Precipitation
  • Sinitic languages
  • Suspension
  • Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)
  • Weather

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)

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