Visualizing Stylistic Differences in Chinese Synonyms

  • Zheng-Sheng ZhangEmail author
Part of the Chinese Language Learning Sciences book series (CLLS)


Synonyms and near-synonyms are a major source of difficulty in the acquisition of Chinese vocabulary, possibly due to the formal similarities between them. It is also difficult to describe their stylistic differences in a clear and objective manner. The observations found in reference works such as dictionaries can be vague, equivocal, and limited in explanatory power. The present paper demonstrates how the corpus-based, multi-feature, multi-dimensional framework for studying register variation (Biber in Variation across speech and writing. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1988) and Correspondence Analysis, a particular implementation of factor analysis, can be used to show stylistic differences in (near) synonyms by way of two-dimensional bi-plots (“stylistic maps” in a sense). After presenting a two-dimensional analysis for Chinese, five sets of synonyms will be used to demonstrate the approach, together with comparisons with previous observations. Not only can the present approach provide a clearer and more nuanced picture than what introspection allows, it also enables us to go beyond the spoken versus written dichotomy and gain a broader perspective on stylistic variation.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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