San Duanmu presents on "Phonology and the Chinese Lexicon"
Abstract. The prominent modern Chinese linguist ZHU Dexi once remarked that, compared with the Western tradition, Chinese dictionaries are quite unusual in two respects: First, they do not annotate parts of speech (e.g. N, V, A, etc.). Second, they do not distinguish the three-way ambiguity among morphemes, words, and phrases. In fact, a central debate among modern Chinese linguists in the past century is over one theoretical question: Is Chinese fundamentally different from Western languages, or is there a deeper level of generalizations to be found for all languages? Generative linguists can easily recognize that this is another version of the question that has engaged them in the past 50 years.
In the latest version of the authoritative Modern Chinese Dictionary (Xiandai Hanyu Cidian, 5th Edition, 2005), parts of speech have been added, for the first time ever, but only to some entries. In addition, several other problems remain, such as the three-way ambiguity among morphemes, words, and phrases, and the double-listing of lexical items.
In this talk, I argue that most problems in the Chinese lexicon can be solved in phonological terms. I outline some of the solutions and show that the resulting Chinese lexicon shows striking similarities to the English one. In addition, the new lexicon offers a number of interesting topics for further research.