Date of Award

Summer 9-15-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Asian Studies


Language/Literature /Culture


Dongdong Chen, Ph.D

Committee Member

Gloria Shen, Ph.D

Committee Member

Xue-Ming Bao, Ed.D


Morphology, Chinese linguistics, compounds, word class


The majority of Chinese words are compounds. Among compounds, there is a special kind of compounds. It is made up of two antonymous morphemes. The antonymous compounds undergo functional shift. In 40% percent of the cases, the compounds have different word classes from the morphemes. The thesis investigated how the functional shift happens and why it happens.

Based on the critique of the definitions of antonymous compounds used in others’ studies, the thesis comes up with a broad definition. With the help of primary sources such as dictionaries, secondary sources, and the definition, the thesis collects 292 antonymous compounds.

The thesis found that functional shift is common for nearly 40% of the compounds change their word classes. The changes in word class are both qualitative and quantitative. Adjective and verbal morphemes are more likely to cause word class when forming compounds. However, nominal morphemes tend to retain their word class. Some antonymous compounds also have more word classes than the morphemes.

The thesis hypothesized that word class change is fundamentally determined by the parataxis in the Chinese language. Secondly, word class change is caused by the antonymous relation and metaphor and metonym. Finally, noun is more stable than adjectives and verbs and the conceptualization process of the compounds ends up being nouns.