Chinese Measure Words and Text Cohesion : a pragmatic approach

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    Approaches to teaching Chinese are mainly based on teaching rules which students have to learn, particularly when it comes to the use of measure words which, according to the currently favoured methodology, we must use 'whenever' we find ourselves in certain language contexts and 'always' collocate with certain nouns. This methodological approach starts to fall apart as soon as we are faced with real-life usage of measure words because it does not consider pragmatic factors. In this article I offer a descriptive analysis of measure words as discourse cohesion devices. For the purposes of this analysis, I refer to the following cohesion devices: reference, substitution, ellipsis and lexical cohesion (repetition, synonymy and collocation). In addition, I pay particular attention to an extremely important aspect of collocation regarding Chinese measure words: their disambiguating function. My analysis and the examples I give in this article attempt to demonstrate that the use of measure words is, in effect, discourse sensitive. It follows that, if we adopt a pragmatic-analytical approach, we can overcome most of the shortfalls of a grammar-oriented approach and better appreciate which factors come into play and can condition the use and choice of measure words.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)57-87
    Number of pages31
    JournalRASK: International Journal of Language and Communication
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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