The treatment of phraseology in Chinese–English dictionaries and Chinese dictionaries for learners
The case of "eat" and "hit"
Keywords:Chinese-English dictionary, Chinese dictionaries for learners, phraseology, corpus
There is little doubt that phraseology is at the heart of all language use. This paper examines the treatment of phraseology in two influential Chinese–English dictionaries and four Chinese dictionaries for learners. Two high-frequency characters, namely eat and hit, were selected due to their highly polysemous and phraseological nature, and their phraseological behaviors examined in the Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese. The entries in the Chinese–English dictionaries and Chinese dictionaries for learners for eat and hit were examined and their dictionary records compared with the results of the previous corpus-based study. The corpus-based identification and categorization of the phraseological behaviors of eat and hit revealed that some multi-character expressions could not be covered by the terms offered by the existing taxonomy (Sag et al., 2002). Accordingly, the taxonomy was revised for the appropriate categorization of Chinese phraseology. Comparisons between corpus-based findings and entry records in Chinese–English dictionaries showed a convergence in the overall treatment of phraseology in Chinese–English dictionaries. By contrast, inconsistencies in the learners’ dictionaries were observed. It was also found that the two Chinese–English dictionaries agree with each other on the overall inclusion and exclusion of phrases. Again, we also observed many differences in the way phrases are treated between Chinese–English dictionaries and learners’ dictionaries and also among the four learners’ dictionaries. It is worth noting that hardly any of the verb-particle constructions observed in the corpus are included in the dictionaries under observation. We propose that these constructions should also be treated as phrases and the dictionaries would be more user-friendly if these phrases were not hidden in the other longer phrases, and were given the same status as the headwords. A larger corpus and sampling in the future would better characterize the taxonomy of Chinese phraseology and provide more conclusive findings.
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