The Syntax and the Semantics of the Deontic Modals yīng 應 and dāng 當 in Early Buddhist Texts

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


Modal verbs in Chinese are a clear instantiation of grammaticalization, to a certain extent comparable to the English modals. All Chinese modals derive from lexical verbs and grammaticalize into markers of deontic and/or epistemic modality, and/or into future markers. The modals當 dā̄ng and應 yīng ‘should’, at issue in this discussion first emerge as modal verbs at the end of the Late Archaic and the beginning of the Middle Chinese periods. In the Buddhist literature, both appear regularly as modal verbs in different functions, although they display some syntactic and semantic differences. This paper approaches the grammaticalization of the two modal verbs from two different perspectives. In the first part of the paper, the diachronic development from lexical verbs to modal auxiliaries is sketched, and their different functions are analyzed within a syntactic framework. The second part of the paper is devoted to the special employment of ying and dang in the Buddhist Vinaya literature.


Buddhist Chinese Vinaya Deontic modality Epistemic modality Syntax Grammaticalization 


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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Foreign Languages for BusinessSouthwestern University of Finance and EconomicsChengduChina
  2. 2.National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, Institute of LinguisticsHsinchuTaiwan

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