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The Discourse Flexibility Of Zhao Yuanren (Yuen Ren Chao)’s Homophonic Text
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1 The Journal of Chinese Linguistics ISSN 0091-3723/ The discourse flexibility of Zhao Yuanren (Yuen Ren Chao)’s homophonic text Preprint©2016 by The Journal of Chinese Linguistics. All rights reserved. (0811) THE DISCOURSE FLEXIBILITY OF ZHAO YUANREN (YUEN REN CHAO)’S HOMOPHONIC TEXT1 He Hengxing South China Normal University, Guangzhou ABSTRACT Chinese American linguist Zhao Yuanren (Yuen Ren Chao) 赵元任’s homophonic Chinese text entitled “Shi shi shi shi shi 施氏食狮史” (or Story of stone grotto poet eating lions) (Zhao [1960]1980) is a peculiar text that is little explored. This paper, with a discussion of this text in terms of mode of discourse, reveals how flexible a homophonic text can be, and how mode of discourse can bend a discourse in its length, syntax, style, and structure. This study enriches the linguistic power and intelligence to Zhao’s original homophonic text and offers some implications for the research of homophonic texts and discourses. Acknowledgement The author of this paper is very grateful to the board of editors of Journal of Chinese Linguistics and the reviewers of the paper for their very encouraging and insightful suggestions and comments. There are altogether two suggestions given by one of the reviewers, i.e., (a) “Why is homophonic discourse possible?” is a topic worthy of research; (b) Is it proper to say “shi shi”(or 弑狮, to kill lions), because in the tradition of ancient Chinese writing, the character 弑 has long been accepted in the meaning relation and collocation of chen 臣 (subject) and jun 君 (king or emperor) as shown in Shuowen Jiezi 说文解字? As for the first suggestion, the author finds the reviewer’s sharp academic “eye” in the discovery of valuable topics, and accepts it as a very good suggestion. In fact, it is another stuty by the author (to appear) since within the present work, the discussion of the suggested topic is not fully appropriate. As for the second suggestion, the author finds that from the traditional point of view, the reviewer is absolutely correct in his argument, but from a revolutionary and contemporary point of view, the author has every reason to argue for the acceptability of the expression of shi shi 弑狮 (to kill lions) for the seemingly prevalent usages of it and similar expressions in Chinese academic journal and newspaper articles—shi 弑 can not only be collocated with shi 狮, but with any of many other kinds of animals! The author claims no conflict of interests to publish this paper in Journal of Chinese Linguistics. He Hengxing [hehengxing@m.scnu.edu.cn]; School of Foreign Studies (Waiguo Yuyan Wenhua Xueyuan), South China Normal University (Huanan Shifan Daxue), Guangzhou, 510631, P.R. China 2 JOURNAL OF CHINESE LINGUISTICS (PREPRINT) The Journal of Chinese Linguistics ISSN 0091-3723/ The discourse flexibility of Zhao Yuanren (Yuen Ren Chao)’s homophonic text Preprint©2016 by The Journal of Chinese Linguistics. All rights reserved. (0811) KEYWORDS Discourse Text Homophonic text Discourse flexibility 1. INTRODUCTION Zhao Yuanren (Yuen Ren Chao) 赵元任, the father of modern Chinese, once wrote a homophonic Chinese article entitled “Shi shi shi shi shi 施氏食 狮史” ( Story of stone grotto poet: Eating lions). (Zhao 1980, 149) Originally he did this kind of homophonic texts for the purpose of illustrating the uniqueness of the Chinese language in terms of the relation between oral and written systems, (Chao 1967, 319-322; Chao 1968, 115-122; Zhao 1980, 150-151; Behr 2015; Zhang 2015) or to use Chao's own words, "the fact of visual reading and the reality of the written language with an autonomous existence on its own account" (Chao 1968, 121). To date, only a number of studies on this kind of discourse (i.e., Fang 1999; Yan 2005; Feng 2010; Zhang 2011; Wang 2013) are available. These studies mainly focus on either the unique features of the Chinese language (Zhang 2011), or the relation between Romanization/pinyinization and the Chinese language (Yan 2005, Feng 2010, Wang 2013), few are concerned with the other features of the discourse. This paper argues that Zhao’s text enjoys discourse flexibility. In terms of mode of discourse, it can be reworded, bringing certain change to its syntax, textual length, style, and discourse structure, which, the author of this paper believes...


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