A Cognitive Analysis of Chinese Locative Phrase Zai + NP + Bian/Mian/Tou

  • Xiaolong LuEmail author
Part of the Frontiers in Chinese Linguistics book series (FiCL, volume 9)


In this study I primarily examine the three commonly used Chinese locative phrases zai + NP + bian/mian/tou (zai-construction) through corpus analysis. Previous studies (Lin in Studies in Language and Linguistics 30:67–70, 2010; Liu in A synchronic and diachronic exploration of the monosyllabic localizer li and the disyllabic localizers limian, litou, libian and the disyllabification effect of the localizers, 2011; Tian in Cognitive analysis about the meaning of libian, waibian, limian, waimian, litou, waitou, 2011) dealt with issues regarding different meanings and structures of these phrases but they failed to systematically investigate these three localizers from a cognitive perspective. My proposal in short is that in the zai-construction, when NP is a specific noun, the distribution of these three localizers (bian ‘side’, mian ‘surface’, tou ‘head’) is semantically restricted in some situations. In contrast, when NP is a combination of a noun and a localizer, there is no restriction on the distribution of these three localizers, etc.. In addition, the use of these localizers can somewhat show the conceptual metaphorical mappings (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980) and subjectivity (Traugott in Language 65:31–55, 1989) embodied in individual mind.


Zai-construction Localizer Metaphorical mapping Subjectivity 



1st person singular


1st person plural


2nd person singular


2nd person plural


3rd person singular


3rd person plural


Attributive de








Complimentizer de


Current relevant state le


Emphasis marker






Modal particle




Past tense


Perfective le




Question marker


Resultative complement


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© Peking University Press 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of East Asian Languages and LiteraturesUniversity of Hawaiʻi at MānoaHonoluluUSA

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