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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton June 27, 2013

Structural and semantic non-correspondences between Chinese splittable compounds and their English translations: A Chinese-English parallel corpus-based study

Jiajin Xu and Xiaochen Li


Splittable Compounds (SCs henceforth) are a rather productive type of disyllabic verbal construction in Chinese, whose two morphological elements can be used together or separated by other interposing elements while the semantic integrity remains. The present study examines the English translations of SCs in a Chinese-English parallel corpus of five million Chinese characters and English words. The study takes a form-meaning combined approach to the structural and semantic differences or non-correspondences between SCs and their English translations. The non-correspondences of lexico-grammar and argument structure of SCs and their translations were thoroughly annotated and analysed. The predominant pattern revealed by our corpus investigation is that the English translations of SCs are characterised by semantic explicitation as well as structural explicitation. This is especially true in the English translations of non-split SCs. The split and non-split SCs are translated in different ways morpho-syntactically and semantically. The translations of non-split SCs more often involve rearrangements in argument structure, such as argument addition and semantic alternative, while the translations of split SCs are more likely to involve changes in grammatical properties. The reconfiguration of morpho-syntactic elements and semantic roles may well be explained from the typological differences of the two languages, the verb semantics, and the syntactic contexts of the SCs.

Published Online: 2013-6-27
Published in Print: 2014-5-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston