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Title: A comparative study of proper name derivatives in Chinese and English
Other Titles: Han yu ji Ying yu zhuan ming yan sheng ci de bi jiao yan jiu
Authors: Chan, Yuen Shan Samantha (陳婉珊)
Department: Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Degree: Master of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Language and languages -- Etymology.
Chinese language -- Etymology.
English language -- Etymology.
Notes: ix, 153 leaves : ill. 30 cm.
Thesis (M.Phil.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 150-153)
CityU Call Number: P321 .C43 2007
Type: thesis
Abstract: This study has analyzed and compared derivatives of proper names in Chinese and English. It is discovered that there are quantitative as well as qualitative differences manifested in the proper name derivatives (henceforth PNDs) in the two languages. Firstly, more English PNDs than Chinese ones can be collected from the selected data sources. Secondly, Chinese PNDs are chiefly formed by compounding but English derivatives were mostly borrowed from other languages. Thirdly, Chinese PNDs are found to be mainly derived from geographical names whereas English derivatives are mostly from personal names. Therefore, in many Chinese PND compounds, the geographical name is the salient and categorizing constituent, but in English compounds it is the personal name which is salient and categorizing. Fourthly, compared with Chinese PNDs, the English derivatives denote more ontologically different entities. Lastly, Chinese terms of diseases are seldom derived from proper names, because they are generally descriptive, with the area affected being made explicit. It is found that many Chinese PNDs are typically in the structure of GEOGRAPHICAL NAME + HEAD NOUN, which is a convenient and descriptive expression for labeling many natural and man-made entities. An attempt has been made to explain the above differences from both linguistic and cultural perspectives. Linguistically, the monosyllabic morphemes in Chinese hinder speakers from using idiomatic words, hence (semantically unanalyzable) personal names are not used to stand for entities other than types of persons having similar salient characteristics. Moreover, the language-specific grammatical devices in English, namely, determiners, plural markers and other inflectional morphemes that are absent in Chinese, have helped to disambiguate PNDs from proper names. Lastly, the one-to-many sound to meaning correspondence in English enables the same sequence of sounds to represent different meanings, and thus a proper name and its derivative having the same sound sequence can have different meanings. Culturally, the various customs or taboos governing the use of personal names in Chinese might have prevented their derivation; but these constraints are not applicable to geographical name derivatives, resulting their prevalence in Chinese.
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