Jump to the main content block
Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


On the Origin and Early Development of Chinese Compounds

Vol. 32 No. 2   6/2002   


On the Origin and Early Development of Chinese Compounds


Cheng-hui Liu









Key words

Classical Chinese, Nominal modifier-head compounds, Coordinative compounds, Patterned-compounding.


    The origin of Chinese compounds can be traced far back to Classical Chinese at the ages of the Oracle Bones and the Bronze Inscriptions. It has been widely assumed that compounds back then are all lexicalized phrases. This paper, however, shows that rules for nominal modifier-head compounds and for coordinative compounds are introduced no later than the age of the Bronze Inscriptions. The former rules apply a method called “patterned-compounding” in this paper to generate new nominal modifier-head compounds. This method, in brief, is to take a high-frequency component (modifier or head) as base form and synthesize the base form with certain component in the pattern that the high-frequency component normally occurs. In other words, it is create new compounds by analogy to existed ones. Rules for coordinative compounds, on the other hand, do not apply the patterned-compounding method originally. While the coordinative compounds accumulate in the language and high-frequency base forms come into being, rules for coordinative compounds also convert to the patterned-compounding method. The patterned-compounding becomes the most predominant way of generating lexical forms in Chinese.



Author: Cheng-hui Liu
Genre: Article
Click Num: