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Does the Thunder Roll? Mandarin Chinese Meteorological Expressions and Their Iconicity

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image of Cognitive Semantics

From a typological perspective, Chinese meteorological expressions are argument-oriented. However, using a lexical semantic approach, based on corpus data as well as dictionaries and Chinese WordNet, a taxonomical lexical field can be established to further analyze the basic level items. Five main clusters of meteorological expressions are identified: precipitation, wind, thunder, sunshine and cloud. A comparison of these clusters with frames derived from the English FrameNet shows that Chinese has a narrower conception of weather phenomena than English. There is significant influence from the script on the linguistic system, at least in relation to meteorological expressions. It is shown that Chinese uses iconicity in its writing system where it is lacking in its phonology. A special case study are weather-related ideophones, where two strata are found: those that are phonologically and semantically motivated and receive iconic support from the writing system vs. those that do not receive this support.

Affiliations: 1: Graduate Institute of Linguistics, National Taiwan University, Taiwan,


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