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Classical Chinese for Everyone (van Norden) Lesson 3 (Analects 6.23)


rickardg
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I have a question about Analects 6.23:

 

子曰:「知者樂水,仁者樂山;知者動,仁者靜;知者樂,仁者壽。」

 

Norden seems to take the 水 and 山  in 知者樂水,仁者樂山;to be nouns "the wise takes delight in water...". (He annoyingly does not provide translations, but in the vocabulary to the lesson he only gives the noun meanings)

 

But in the grammar notes in the same chapter Norden talks about the fact that nouns can be used as stative verbs ("臣" can mean to "act like a minister").

 

Is there a linguistic reason not to treat 山 and 水 as stative verbs; "the wise takes delight in acting like water, the benevolent takes delight in acting like a mountain"?

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I would think the best check would be to see if they're ever used as stative verbs in any of the rest of the corpus; obviously not going to make any bold claims on my limited familiarity but strikes me as unlikely and not a usage I've ever encountered. If they never occur elsewhere in that sense you'd say makes the reading unlikely. Not that a usage can't be unique of course and would also be interested to hear if there's some hard technical bar to them being stative though.

I see why you like that reading but perhaps enough of it is implied in the noun alone. You'd think 水 is more in its sense of river than water per se, especially with the pairing with mountain and then the 動 just following.

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I haven’t read van Norden, so not exactly sure what he’s referring to, but I imagine it’s 君不君,臣不臣,父不父,子不子… from 論語. It’s not commonly used grammar in 文言文, but very characteristic of 論語. 
 

In the case you mentioned, there are two reasons why it’s a noun and not a stative verb.

 

The first being that for the meaning your expecting, the 文言文 would be 知者樂為水, or something similar. This is not a very literary or good translation, of course, just to demonstrate the point.

 

The second - and more important reason - being that it’s just not a stative verb. The analects would be memorised by little ancient scholar babies before they can even read, they know what 智者樂水 means because they know what it means. The difference between “stative verb” and “noun” is a didactic convenience for you, the western reader. Most of 文言文 is like that, sometimes the answer is: “because that’s what it is”. Get used to it, soldier.

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Yes, you're right usage is everything, but it would be interesting to know if there is a syntactic reason for it. I did try a search on ctext.org but there are several hundred paragraphs each for 水 and 山 only in the Confucian section, far too many for my reading speed.

 

Are more verb-y nouns more likely to be used as stative verbs than more noun-y nouns? I mean, it is easier to imagine someone acting like a minister than someone acting like a river even if it seems that the meaning of the whole passage is exactly that (the wise acting like rivers).

 

11 hours ago, Jim said:

You'd think 水 is more in its sense of river than water per se, especially with the pairing with mountain and then the 動 just following.

 

Interesting, do rivers 動 in (Classical) Chinese?   

 

I have thought of an even more fanciful interpretation; in chapter 5 van Norden refers to 朱熹 commenting on Analects 6.20 (子曰:「知之者不如好之者,好之者不如樂之者。):  樂 can mean "delighting in something when you achieve it" which would then give "the wise delight in being able [i.e. having achieved the ability] to be like a river". (OK, I'll stop right here, I'm overthinking this... 🙂 )

 

 

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I don't think there's much limit to nouns acting as stative verbs in the sense you mean, I've seen the line 蓮葉何田田 analysed as ending in a stative verb, albeit you have reduplication there which might be used morpho-syntactically to hint that it's not a noun.

 

I haven't got the book in question, is he treating it as a 者 也 construction without the 也?

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On 8/30/2021 at 10:21 PM, NinKenDo said:

I haven't got the book in question, is he treating it as a 者 也 construction without the 也?

 

No, he doesn't, he treats the 者 as nominalizing, "those who are benevolent".

 

At least I think so, he doesn't provide analysis or translations of the texts, just grammar notes and commentary.

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