Conceptualization of containment in Chinese: A corpus-based study of the Chinese space particles lĭ, nèi, and zhōng

Hung Kuan Su, Alvin Cheng Hsien Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This study investigates the semantic variations of three near-synonymous space particle constructions of containment in Chinese: [zai NP l./nei/]. While previous work has mostly applied qualitative analyses of the semantic differences between these particles, this study presents a corpusbased analysis examining the relationship between space particles and their co-occurring landmarks in the locative construction. Two quantitative analyses were conducted: a multiple distinctive collexeme analysis and a post-hoc semantic analysis. Our results suggest the following. First, l. is a more unmarked particle in encoding containment, co-occurring with both canonical landmarks and a wider range of entities. Second, nei shows a strong preference for landmarks denoting temporal concepts; this metaphorical use often implies a preplanned objective in the proposition, with the landmark as an intended deadline. Finally, shows a strong connection to landmarks denoting high-dynamicity events. This extended use often comes with a marked aspectual reading of the landmark.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-245
Number of pages35
JournalConcentric: Studies in Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov 1


  • Cognitive semantics
  • Collostructional analysis
  • Containment
  • Distinctive collexeme
  • Quantitative corpus linguistics
  • Space particles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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