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Making Sense of Grammar
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What is the function of ZHI (之) in Chinese? Can ZHI (之) be replaced by DE (的)?

asked Dec 7, 2017 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by admin (25,520 points)
edited Mar 26, 2018 by admin | 800 views

1 Answer

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ZHI (之) and DE(的) can both be used to link a modifier and its head. For example:

政府之成立  the foundation of government

证人的出现  the appearance of witnesses

ZHI is a function word mainly used in Old Chinese and Middle Chinese, while DE(的) appeared in late Middle Chinese and mainly used in Early Chinese. Although appeared quite late than ZHI, DE replaced some usage of ZHI in Early Chinese.

In Modern Chinese, DE is the most common used function word. For example, in 2013, there are 1300 headlines of People's Daily have used DE or ZHI. The usage of DE is 34.58% (1257 headlines have used DE) while ZHI is 9.57% (53 headlines have used ZHI).  People's Daily can be categorized to written Chinese text. In spoken Chinese, ZHI seldom appears. Therefore, the differences between DE and ZHI mainly belongs to language style. ZHI is used in written Chinese while DE is used in both written and spoken Chinese.

[1]张世禄. 古汉语里的偏正化主谓结构[J]. 语文教学, 1959, (11).

[2]张音. 论当前报纸新闻标题的口语化现象—特点、背景、意义及发展方向[D]. 中国社会科学院, 2003.

[3]刘旭鹏. 定中标记“的”与“之”的韵律效应[D]. 华中师范大学, 2014.

[4]徐阳春, 钱书新. 试论“的”字语用功能的同一性———“的”字逆向凸显的作用[J]. 世界汉语教学, 2005, (3).

answered Nov 2, 2020 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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