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Making Sense of Grammar
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What are the features of character "字" and word "詞" in Chinese? How are they different from their counterparts in English?

asked Jan 2, 2018 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by admin (23,690 points)

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Chinese characters and words are known as zì (字) and cí (詞) respectively.

Compared to English, the boundary of a Chinese word is not clear, as many morphological markers like affixes are often non-existent because the Chinese language does not mark tense, or parts of speech, morphologically. For instance, the sentence “下雨天留客天留我不留”has several explanations because of the different ways of word segmentations.

On the other hand, zì (字) is a more intuitive concept than cí (詞). Each morpheme-syllable is represented with a character regardless of its morphological status. Furthermore, since Chinese orthography requires no space between characters, there is no clear distinction between bound and free morphemes in speakers’ mindset.

Reference: Chinese: a linguistic introduction by Chao Fen Sun

answered Jan 2, 2018 by admin (23,690 points)
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