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A Cognitive Study of the Asymmetry between "shang" and "xia" in Chinese

Zhou Tongquan, Linguistics Department of Central China Normal University, Hubei Wuhan 430079  
Asymmetry is the universal phenomenon in languages, and the Chinese expression "shang/xia" and their relevant structures demonstrate it manifestly both in form and in meaning. This paper attempts to elucidate the following points in the perspective of recognition and function: the a- symmetry of "shang/xia" can be firstly traced back to their prototype and furthermore follows a spe- cial sequence of order in semantic features; in light of metaphor projecting, "shang/xia" begins to shift from locative category to the other ones as verb acts and relevant new asymmetry comes out as a consequence. Based on the examination of process of how "shang/xia" is projected (from spatial cog- nitive domain to non-spatial cognitive domain), one can find out the universal principle governing language change, that is, from concrete to discrete and from specific to general. In conclusion, the a- symmetry of "shang/xia" results from their physical substantiality and the specific culture in which they are applied, which as a general rule can account for all types of asymmetry in Chinese.
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