Modal Markers in the Collected Sayings of Chan Master: Final Particles lai and qu

Vol. 35 No. 1   6/2005    


Modal Markers in the Collected Sayings of Chan Master: Final Particles lai and qu


Wei-ju Kuo









Key words

deictic words, modality, lai, qu, the sayings of the Chan masters


       The use of the deictic words (lai, come) and (qu, go) in early vernacular collections of the sayings of the Chan master is noteworthy in that when they are used as final particles they lose the verbal sense they originally had. Most scholars explain their syntactical marker while qu conveys either the sense of “to be done” or “having done.” There is still much debate as to properly explain qu. This paper attempts to address this debate by using the framework of modality to identify all instances in which qu appears in an irrealis modality. In doing so, we can see that the word qu clearly brings with it modal characteristic. After determining that qu is an irrealis marker, this paper conjectures that since lai is complementary to qu, in a systen of modal syntax, lai should play the role of realis marker. Even though these two modal verbs are no longer used in standard mandarin, this does not mean that the final particle le has replaced their original function. This is because le functions to indicate tense, that is, to indicate the current relevance for the event described and the time of speech in sentences where there are no particles indicating time. This function is clearly different from the ues of lai and qu as realis and irrealis marker. Ta the same time, this paper’s classification of lai and qu in the collections of the Chan masters under the moral system of functional categories is supported by the fact that this usage is retained by the speakers in Qingjian County in the Shaanbei region.



Author: Wei-ju Kuo
Genre: Article