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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2014, Vol. 9 Issue (4) : 538-554
Ontogenesis and Phylogenesis in the Analysis of Chinese Classifiers: Remarks on Philosophical Method
Marshall D. Willman()
College of Overseas Education, NYIT-NUPT, New York Institute of Technology, Nanjing Campus, Nanjing, China
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Philosophical analysis is commonly assumed to involve decomposing the meaning of a sentence or an expression into a set of conceptually basic constituent parts. This essay challenges this traditional view by examining the potential semantic roles that classifier phrases play in Chinese. It is suggested that the conceptual resources necessary for justifying claims about the semantical status of natural language classifier phrases should be informed in part by methods that accommodate ontogenic and evolutionary contexts. Evidence is provided for the view that many Chinese classifiers (but not all) are features regimented in the grammar of Chinese that have no functional role in normal adult communication, but which play an ontogenetic role in the child’s development of linguistic competency. Furthermore, it is suggested that this ontogenetic role has features in common with the phylogenetic processes by which Chinese or its classical variants came about, as a later product of mechanisms that evolved in the species in accordance with varying demands for successful communication.

Keywords Chinese classifiers      semantic analysis      philosophical method      ontogeny      phylogeny      ontogenetic role semantics     
Issue Date: 11 December 2014
 Cite this article:   
Marshall D. Willman. Ontogenesis and Phylogenesis in the Analysis of Chinese Classifiers: Remarks on Philosophical Method[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(4): 538-554.
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