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Article Dans Une Revue Journal of Chinese Linguistics Année : 2004

About the preposition yu in Old Chinese

Dan Xu


Unlike in contemporary Chinese, in which a noun or an NP is marked to indicate the agent-patient relation (I refer to the ba and bei constructions which introduce the object/patient or the agent), in Old Chinese, a verb was marked to express complex semantic relations (goal, source, agent, patient, benefactive, result, etc.). In other words, these marks were phonologically, morphologically and lexically reflected in verbs: changes of tone, the voicing of initials, the alternation of some vowels, and the choice of verbs ; these all operated within the verb phrase. In this paper I have studied marking of the verb by the preposition yu, and specifically the irregular occurrence of yu introducing a noun: for the same verb, yu can be present or absent without changing the meaning of the sentence. In syntactically marked sentences, the prepositions于yu and於yu were obviously the most commonly used prepositions, and their semantic and syntactic functions were overloaded. Before the Han period (at the late period of the 3rd century BC), the graph於yu took a dominant position over the graph 于yu according to our investigations. I have noted that some psychverbs can freely use the preposition yu to introduce an object. The meaning remains the same for most of these verbs. The verbs which can undergo this operation have a prominent feature in common: the degree of their transitivity is very weak. Also, these verbs tend to have a departing tone. I am inclined to argue that the verbs’ marking by the preposition yu just reflected the reorganization of the word order in OC forced by typological change. This paper takes a new approach of using arguments largely based on excavated texts instead of transmitted ones, unlike most papers on this topic.


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hal-01476961 , version 1 (26-02-2017)


  • HAL Id : hal-01476961 , version 1


Dan Xu. About the preposition yu in Old Chinese. Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 2004, 32 (2), pp.282-307. ⟨hal-01476961⟩
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