Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2213-8722
  • E-ISSN: 2213-8730
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All languages of the world provide their speakers with linguistic means to express existential relations, but such means may vary from language to language. For instance, the existential construction in English is usually introduced by the so-called dummy word whereas such a construction in Mandarin Chinese directly begins with a locative phrase. From the perspective of Cognitive Grammar, we propose that the Mandarin existential construction (MEC) is a reference-point construction. As such, the initial locative phrase (PLOC) serves as the dominion and the reference point (D/R) to make mental contact with the final nominal phrase which indicates the existence of an entity (Existent) in the spatial region singled out by the PLOC. In the process of the conceptualizer’s construing an entity’s existence in a spatial location, it is the location that gets activated and profiled as salient first, and this location subsequently recedes into the background to serve as the reference point to locate an entity as the target which is finally profiled as salient. Therefore, a reference-point relation is formed between the PLOC and the Existent, the former of which functions as the reference point and the latter as the target. Due to this particular cognitive property of MEC, it is also a presentational construction at the discourse level in that it performs a discursive function of introducing new participants into a discourse. This discursive function of MEC plays a vital role in enabling a discourse to unfold smoothly, thus making the discourse into a cohesive and coherent semantic whole. In addition, when a couple of MECs occur together in a discourse successively, a kind of reference-point chain may be developed.


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