Degree adverbs in spoken Mandarin A behavioral profile corpus‑based approach to language alternatives

Pei Wen Huang, Alvin Cheng Hsien Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Managing near-synonymous morphosyntactic constructions in language is often at the core of a speaker’s grammatical competence. This study investigates the usage patterns of four near-synonymous degree adverb constructions (i.e., hěn, tài, mán, and chāo) in the Taiwan Mandarin Corpus in TalkBank. After retrieving the concordance lines of these four constructions from the corpus, we manually annotated their co-occurring linguistic patterns/structures at multiple linguistic levels. In particular, we utilized a corpus-based behavioral profile approach to determine the interrelationship of the four constructions based on their distributional patterns and identified their distinctive behavioral patterns, producing a comprehensive delineation of their functional differences. Our analysis suggests that these four constructions fall into two super-clusters, i.e., chāo-mán and tài-hěn. Chāo and mán differ mainly in the pragmatic sentiments of their associated predicates, their co-occurrences with the nominalization structure, and their productivity in lexicalization. Tài and hěn differ mainly in their co-occurrences with the final particle -le, the semantic and pragmatic functions of their associated predicates, and the semantics of their associated head nouns. We have also connected these corpus-based distributional patterns to previous research findings, demonstrating the effectiveness and applicability of the behavioral profile approach for the analysis of near-synonymous morphosyntactic alternations in language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-322
Number of pages38
JournalConcentric: Studies in Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov 29


  • behavioral profile
  • degree adverbs
  • hierarchical cluster analysis
  • near-synonyms
  • spoken Mandarin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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