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Description: ABB words in Chinese, e.g., hēi-qīqī ‘pitch black’, have been studied for a long time. Most traditional studies analyze these words through derivational rules involving empty suffixes. However, this is problematic, as they are better seen as compounds involving a prosaic A and an ideophonic BB part. By treating ABB as a schema sanctioned by collocate–ideophonic constructions, it is possible to investigate other similar patterns. A corpus study (more than 5,000 tokens) revealed that on the level of schemas, ABB truly acts as a prototype of such constructions, but that it is far from the only pattern to be identified. A second corpus-based study on the level of exemplars showed there are different pockets of salience and non-uniformity in the data from four angles: cue validity, frequency, dispersion, and constructional preference. This paper provides evidence that the traditional ABB narrative needs to be complemented with usage-based data, and grapple with the lexical salience effects this brings along for words involving iconicity.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International


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