A Preliminary Investigation of Aspectual Features of Motion Verbs in Classical Chinese

Part of the Frontiers in Chinese Linguistics book series (FiCL, volume 5)


It is believed that Classical Chinese, though without grammatical category of aspect, has the lexical aspect. This chapter proposes that verbs in Classical Chinese contain semantic components related to aspectual meaning and the lack of morphological means is compensated by the rich contents of lexical words. It is argued, in discussing aspect, it is necessary to distinguish between the lexical level and the verb-phrase level. This chapter first probes into the aspectual features of motion verbs in Classical Chinese. The verbs of ascend-descend, transfer and passing are discussed based on the comparison of completeness and incompleteness of event structure. Then verbs of arrival and traversal are taken as examples to illustrate the interaction of aspectual features and situation types. Aspectual feature, the basis of situation type, is regarded as the intrinsic and constant property of verb meaning while situation type, co-determined by the verb and its context, is dynamic and changeable.


Motion verb Classical Chinese Aspectual feature Situation type Event structure 


  1. Chen, Ping 陈平. 1988. On the three-component structure of the temporal system in modern Chinese 论现代汉语时间系统的三元结构. Studies of the Chinese Language 中国语文 6:401–422.Google Scholar
  2. Dowty, D.R. 1991. Thematic proto-roles and argument selection. Language 67: 547–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Guo, Rui 郭锐. 1993. A systematic analysis of verbs representing course of event in Chinese 汉语动词的过程结构. Studies of the Chinese Language 中国语文 6:410–419.Google Scholar
  4. Guo, Rui 郭锐. 1997. Procedural and non-procedural: Two external time category of Chinese predicative constituents 过程和非过程——汉语谓词性成分的两种外在时间类型. Studies of the Chinese Language 中国语文 3:162–175.Google Scholar
  5. Hu, Chirui 胡敕瑞. 2005. From implying to presenting: An essential change of Chinese vocabulary in the middle times 从隐含到呈现——试论中古词汇的一个本质变化. Essays on Linguistics 语言学论丛 31: 1–21.Google Scholar
  6. Hu, Chirui 胡敕瑞. 2006. A case study of the semantic change of “去” 之 “往/至” 义的产生过程. Studies of the Chinese Language 中国语文 6:520–530.Google Scholar
  7. Huang, T. James. 2005. Syntactic analyticity and the other end of the parameter. Lecture handouts for LSA Linguistic Institute Course. Harvard University and MIT.Google Scholar
  8. Jin, Lixin 金立鑫. 2008. Aktionsarts, Situation Types and Aspects 试论行为类型、情状类型及其与体的关系. Language Teaching and Linguistic Studies 语言教学与研究 4:1–9.Google Scholar
  9. Johnson, Mark. 1987. The body in the mind: The bodily basis of meaning, imagination and reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  10. Lü, Yunsheng 吕云生. 2009. Study on the semantic classification of verbs in the Book of Rites 礼记动词的语义分类研究. Beijing: China Broadcasting and Television Press.Google Scholar
  11. Mei, Guang 梅广. 2014. Outline of ancient Chinese grammar 上古汉语语法纲要. Taipei: Sanmin Book Company.Google Scholar
  12. Meisterernst, Barbara. 2015. Tense and aspect in Han period Chinese: A linguistic analysis of the ‘Shijì’. Berlin: De Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Shi, Yuzhi 石毓智. 2003. The change of conceptualization of verbs in the history of Chinese and its effect on grammar 古今汉语动词概念化方式的变化及其对语法的影响. Chinese Language Learning 汉语学习 4:1–8.Google Scholar
  14. Talmy, Leonard. 2000. Toward a cognitive semantics. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Tenny, Carol. 1994. Aspectual roles and the syntax-semantic interface. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Vendler, Zeno. 1967. Linguistics and philosophy, 1st ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Verkuyl, H.J. 1972. On the compositional nature of the aspects. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wang, Li 王力. 1982. Dictionary of cognate words 同源字典. Beijing: Commercial Press.Google Scholar
  19. Wang, Fengyang 王凤阳. 2011. Thesaurus of classical Chinese 古辞辨. Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company.Google Scholar
  20. Wang, Yueting 王月婷. 2013. A study of phonetic changes of translational verbs in ancient Chinese: The types, conditions, rules and causes 古汉语中位移动词的变读问题研究. Studies in Language and Linguistics 语言研究 3:73–86.Google Scholar
  21. Wang, Cheng 王诚. 2016. Aspectual function of the particle yú 于/於 in old Chinese, In New aspects of classical Chinese grammar, ed. Barbara Meisterernst, 131–148. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.Google Scholar
  22. Yang, Suying, Huang Yueyuan, and Wang Yong 杨素英, 黄月圆, 王勇. 2009. On the classification of verbal situation types and its problems 动词情状分类及分类中的问题. Essays on Linguistics 语言学论丛 39:478–505.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peking University Press and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

Personalised recommendations