A study on the semantic change of the Chinese negative adverb Bùshèn (不甚)

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationChinese Language and Discourse
Online published2 Jun 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 2 Jun 2022


This paper aims to account for the multiple interpretations of the Chinese negative degree adverb bùshèn (不甚). In Xiandai Hanyu Dacidian Shangce (Modern Chinese Dictionary Volume I) (Ruan & Guo (eds) 2009), bùshèn is defined as 'the degree is not very high', which can be interpreted as 'not very'; however, in the CCL and BCC Modern Chinese corpora, a few cases showing that bùshèn can only be interpreted as indicating positive degree similar to 'very: Using the extensive classical and modern Chinese data, we argue that the semantic change has undergone a process of analogy (cf. Harris & Campbell 1995; Fischer 2007; Traugott & Trousdale 2013). Specifically, the use of positive degree of bùshèn has been analogized to the extant positive degree adverb bùshèn (). The semantic change is observed when bùshèn forms common collocations with an adjective or a verb which convey emotions, such as gǎnxiè 'grateful' in bùshèn gǎnxiè 'very grateful'.

Research Area(s)

  • semantics, Chinese, degree adverb, analogy, Bushen, Busheng

Bibliographic Note

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