Notes on Chinese grammar and ontology : the endurant/perdurant dichotomy and Mandarin D-M compounds

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Y. R. Chao’s (1955) ‘Notes on Chinese Grammar and Logic’ illustrated how logical relations are encoded in Chinese Grammar and his Chinese grammar (Chao 1968) introduced the grammatical category of Measure (M) in Determiner-Measure (D-M) Compounds. Subsequent studies of Chinese typically adopt the general linguistic term of classifier (Aikenvald 2003) and either refer to Chao’s M as a classifier (e.g. Li and Thompson 1981) or assume that it can be further subdivided into two categories: classifiers and measure words (Tai 1994). Many later studies tried to account for the classifiers/measure words contrast via semantic or syntactic tests without reaching a definite conclusion. This paper adopts and merges two lines of Chao’s research to show that the ontological concept of endurant vs. perdurant is elegantly instantiated in Chinese grammar, and by the category of M in particular. By doing so I hope to follow Y. R. Chao’s (1955) giant leap in studying logical relations in Chinese and to take the further step of exploring the significance of the Chinese language for ontological studies, including issues such as whether Quality should be ontologically dependent on entities or instead subsumed by them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalLingua sinica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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