Roundabout Linguistic Strategy: The Elderly-referring Euphemisms in Mandarin Chinese

  • 張 怡芬

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This study focuses on four elderly-referring euphemisms—yin2fa3zu2 chang2qing1 ren2rui4 and zhang3zhe3—by means of semantic prosody (Sinclair 1987) and Mandarin VerbNet (Liu & Chiang 2008) as theoretical framework The data are taken from Newspapers in Taiwan Database over three periods of times: 1990 - 1992 1993 - 1995 and 2012 We aim to answer: (1) What are the indigenous mechanisms and the developing process of thematic role and collocation of these euphemisms? (2) How do these euphemisms adopted to address elderly people differ for specific event types from the perspective of the multi-layered hierarchical model? (3) How does the linguistic context of press media influence the adoption and function of euphemisms? The results include that (1) metaphorical euphemisms are trendy in the pre-aging society while metonymic usage becomes more prevalent after transforming into an aging society In contemporary society the euphemism created by dual linguistic strategies is the most frequently adopted one e g zhang3zhe3 generated through fuzzy words and synonymy In addition thematic role displays the developing preferred role of the elderly-referring euphemisms which concentrates on theme before 1993 but develops to the balanced allocation of agent and theme after 1993 In 2012 agent becomes the most prevalent role (2) Although these four euphemisms share a general centrality in positive semantic prosody yin2fa3zu2 shows a more neutralized tendency from the most negative to a more neutral prosody; zhang3zhe3 presents fluctuation from the most positive to the most negative euphemistic alternative (3) Yin2fa3zu2 is often connected with the Economy-Transaction Basic Frame to describe financially-associated events and chang2qing1 exclusively anchors in certain vigorous events pertaining to the Competition Basic Frame and Learning-Education Basic Frame Ren2rui4 pertains to the Welfare-Care Basic Frame and Medicine-Health Basic Frame and zhang3zhe3 correlates with the Praise-Esteem Basic Frame around 1993 but is only adopted with Welfare-Care affairs in 2012 (4) Since circulation is important for newspapers the adopted parlance needs to consider the feelings and mindsets of the readership In this case the elderly-referring euphemism is an efficacious avenue to save the face (Brown & Levinson 1987) of both audiences and newspapers issuers themselves In sum the diachronic investigation of the four elderly-referring euphemisms facilitates readers to comprehend language users’ developing mindsets and attitudes toward the elderly population It is the reflection of the reciprocal relationship between linguistic euphemisms and the corresponding social condition
Date of Award2014 Jun 23
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorShelley Ching-yu Hsieh(Depner) (Supervisor)

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