Pragmatic effects in the Chinese lexicon

Jerome L. Packard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper discusses the relationship between pragmatic contextual information and complex word meaning in the Mandarin Chinese lexicon. It is argued that although pragmatic information serves to enrich semantically underspecified lexical entries, such information has no access to the internal constituents of lexical items once they have entered the lexicon of the hearer. Using two types of Mandarin Chinese complex words - words containing the agentive suffix -zhe and words that are polysemous - as examples, I argue that underspecified lexical entries are enriched by contact with pragmatic context, but that the individual components of complex words are opaque to pragmatic effects once those words are part of the hearer's lexicon. In addition, I use word pairs distinguished by the presence of right-hand stress to argue that pragmatic contextual effects cause originally homophonous word pairs to become phonologically distinct in the Mandarin lexicon. It is suggested that the opacity of word-internal information to pragmatic enrichment may be considered an instantiation of the Lexical Integrity Hypothesis broadly interpreted to include pragmatics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-396
Number of pages12
JournalItalian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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