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A Diachronic Study of Dragon Lexemes in Mandarin Chinese: Lexical Change and Semantic Development

By Ching-Yu Hsieh Shelley


This paper aims at exploring the origins, lexical changes, and meanings of dragon lexemes in Mandarin Chinese. The dragon is a mythical animal. Dragon lexemes are generated from legends, literary works, and quotations from celebrities and media. They either describe the character of the referent, the dragon, or the records of ancient customs, or are results of language contact. Dragon lexemes underwent lexical changes in both meaning broadening and semantic shift. Chinese wish for the capability to fly, and they long for luck and value interpersonal relations. These desires are all written with dragon lexemes. The lexical item long 龍 (dragon) now is not only a semantic unit denoting 'positive, super, strong/strengthen, best person, holy', but also serves as a popular phonetic representation that stands for the phonological unit [+liquids] + [-front vowels] + [+nasal C.]. As a result, long has developed this way: semantic element > phonetic element > morphological unit > syntactic marker, all triggered by social change and a new Mandarin structure

Topics: mythical animal, animal metaphors, lexical change, grammaticalization
Publisher: 臺中市:國立中興大學外國語文學系
Year: 2014
OAI identifier:

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