Colorado Research in Linguistics

Document Type

Working Paper


In Chinese spatial expressions, some NPs are obligatorily followed by localizers, others cannot be followed by localizers, and the rest are optionally followed by localizers. This paper is intended to explain these variations from a perspective of cognitive semantics. We have discovered that 'objects' in a general sense are conceptualized as THING and PLACE with respect to their spatial relations in everyday cognition. The NPs that are capable of INDEPENDENTLY functioning as the Ground in the semantic structure of the motion event fall into the category of PLACE and the NPs that CONDITIONALLY function as the Ground fall into the category of THING. In Chinese, localizers rather than prepositions serve as a device to permit NPs for THING to undergo the conceptual transformation from THING to PLACE, called LOCALIZATION in this paper. This forms a fundamental explanation for the occurrence of localizers in spatial expressions. The distinction between THING and PLACE is also apparent in the observations which show selection of words for THING and PLACE in different contexts. Finally, the distinction between THING and PLACE is conceptually imposed upon a language in a manner which respects the idiosyncrasy of the semantic structure of a motion event in that language.

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