Dissertation Defense: Lihong Huang

Candidate Name: Lihong Huang

Major: Linguistics

Advisor: Andrea Tyler, Ph.D.

Title: Corpus-based Study of the Grammaticalization and Semantic Networks of Chinese guo and le

Due to their polysemous nature and inter-lexical polysemy (Evans, 2015), Chinese guo (過/过) and le (了) have proven to be two of the most closely related and most puzzling linguistic items for linguists to describe and L2 learners to master. Previous studies have made important findings on the semantics of guo and le (e.g., Chao, 1968; Lü, 1980; Li and Thompson, 1981; Huang and Davis, 1989; Smith, 1997); however, no satisfying, unified account has been offered. One major gap in the previous studies is the lack of systematicity. Moreover, none of the previous studies have tried to offer complete accounts for guo and le. In addition, the inter-lexical polysemy of guo and le has not been addressed as a polysemous phenomenon in a systematic fashion in the literature. With the aim of filling these gaps, this dissertation explores the semantics of guo and le from a cognitive, usage-based approach (e.g., Langacker, 1987, 2008). Specifically, by adopting Tyler and Evans’s (2003) methodology of Principled Polysemy, this study begins the exploration from the discussion of the proto-scenes or the primary senses of guo and le, and argues that the previous studies that treated the aspectual meanings of guo and le as their central senses and the starting point of their analyses are mostly wrong-headed. Through analyzing diachronic corpus data that cover a history of 3,000 years from the Western Zhou (1046-771 BCE) to modern times, this dissertation shows how guo and le have systematically evolved from their primary senses to today’s highly polysemous phenomena. Cognitive and usage-based explanations of meaning extension are an essential part of this dissertation. Furthermore, this study establishes semantic networks for guo and le, which not only represent the diachronic grammaticalization paths (Bybee, et al., 1994) of the two particles, but also the synchronic interrelationship among the meanings. Finally, the inter-lexical polysemy, i.e., the seemingly interchangeable, but subtly different uses of guo and le, is analyzed with Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models proposed by Evans (2015). Overall, this dissertation provides a systematic, motivated and fuller account of the semantics of guo and le.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Poulton Hall, Arabic Dept. Conference Room
1421 37th St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events, Dissertation Defense


Georgetown College, Linguistics, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences



Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Erin Esch Pereira

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