Volume 47, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1810-7478
  • E-ISSN: 2589-5230



The word in Mandarin is semantically rich. However, little research has been devoted to examining its meanings and uses, let alone possible innovative usage following the popularity of social media platforms. Hence, this study aims to examine in detail (a) the descriptive range, meanings and functions of , and (b) possible changes of its usage in Internet communication. To achieve these goals, a total of 800 tokens of were collected and analyzed–400 from the Sinica Corpus and 400 from two widely used social media platforms, representing the data before and after social media platforms became popular. Our major findings are: First, although human beings and non-human objects are what mostly describes, its descriptive range is shifting to more abstract entities for much higher percentages of Abstract Entity and Event are found on the social media platforms. Second, the influence of age and gender factors has weakened. Third, although most of the non-human cases are described as due to their external features, most of the human cases in the Sinica Corpus are called for their external features while on the social media platforms, for their non-external features. Fourth, conveys positive meanings most of the time, and the three most frequently found meanings of in the Sinica Corpus are different from those on the social media platforms. Fifth, is found to serve as hedges in both sets of data, but it is also used to show surprise on the social media platforms.

Available under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Asano-Cavanagh, Yuko
    2014 Linguistic manifestation of gender reinforcement through the use of the Japanese term ‘kawaii’. Gender and Language8.3:341–359. 10.1558/genl.v8i3.341
    https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v8i3.341 [Google Scholar]
  2. Brown, Penelope and Stephen C. Levinson
    1978 Universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena. Questions and Politeness: Strategies in Social Interaction, ed. by Esther Goody , 56–310. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511813085
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511813085 [Google Scholar]
  4. Bublitz, Wolfram
    1996 Semantic prosody and cohesive company: “Somewhat predictable”. Leuvense Bijdragen: Tijdschrift voor Germaanse Filologie85.1–2:1–32.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Bybee, Joan
    1998 The emergent lexicon. Chicago Linguistic Society34:421–435.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Chuang, Tzu-i.
    2005 The power of cuteness: Female infantilization in urban Taiwan. Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs5.2:21–28.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Farris, Catherine S.
    1988 Gender and grammar in Chinese: With implications for language universals. Modern China14.3:277–308. 10.1177/009770048801400302
    https://doi.org/10.1177/009770048801400302 [Google Scholar]
  8. Hopper, Paul J.
    1987 Emergent grammar. Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, ed. by Jon Aske , Natasha Beery , Laura Michaelis and Hana Filip , 139–157. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. 1998 Emergent grammar. The New Psychology of Language: Cognitive and Functional Approaches to Language Structure, ed. by Michael Tomasello , 155–175. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Huang, Shuanfan
    1998 Emergent lexical semantics. Selected Papers from the Second International Symposium on Languages in Taiwan, ed. by Shuanfan Huang , 129–150. Taipei: Crane Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Hyland, Ken
    1998Hedging in Scientific Research Articles. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/pbns.54
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.54 [Google Scholar]
  12. McVeigh, Brian J.
    1996 Commodifying affection, authority and gender in the everyday objects of Japan. Journal of Material Culture1.3:291–312. 10.1177/135918359600100302
    https://doi.org/10.1177/135918359600100302 [Google Scholar]
  13. Sinclair, John
    1987Looking up: An Account of the COBUILD Project in Lexical Computing and the Development of the Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary. London: Collins.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. 1994 Trust the text. Advances in Written Text Analysis, ed. by Malcolm Coulthard , 12–25. London & New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Tao, Hongyin
    2000 Adverbs of absolute time and assertiveness in vernacular Chinese: A corpus-based study. Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association 2000.3:53–73.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. 2003 Toward an emergent view of lexical semantics. Language and Linguistics4.4:837–856.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Wierzbicka, Anna
    1991Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: The Semantics of Human Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783112329764
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783112329764 [Google Scholar]
  18. Yamauchi, Tomoko
    2011 Han yu “ke ai” yu ri yu “kawaii” zhi bi jiao yan jiu [A contrastive study of cute in Chinese and in Japanese]. Modern Chinese5:152–156.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Yomota, Inuhiko
    2006‘Kawaii’ ron [Theory of ‘Kawaii’] (translated into Mandarin by Guang-fen Chen in 2007). Tokyo: Chikuma Shinsho.

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error