Distinguishing word

Revision as of 04:49, 1 July 2013 by Simingjie (talk | contribs)
Also known as: 区别词, distinguishing words and attributive adjectives.

"Distinguishing words" are rather foreign to the English speaker. They are called 区别词 (qūbiécí) in Mandarin--literally, "distinguish words." Why bother with this new class at all? Well, on the surface they seem like regular adjectives, but distinguishing words have certain limitations that normal adjectives do not have. So if you're not aware that some words are "special," you'll likely have difficulty making natural sentences, and you won't know why. It really all does seem a bit random and arbitrary until you get an overview of what distinguishing words are and what the most common examples of them are.

What are they

"Distinguishing words" are a special type of adjective that actually evolved from nouns. As such, they are more rigidly defined then other adjectives. Unlike other adjectives, "distinguishing words" don't have a degree that they can apply to: they either are, or they aren't. For example, something can be "blue" (a normal adjective) or "male" (a distinguishing word). You can say that something is "very blue" (that is, farther on the spectrum of blue), but you can't say that something is "very male" (because there isn't a spectrum for that). This means that distinguishing words can't be modified for degree like other adjectives can.

List of Distinguishing Words

Single character distinguishing words

  • 金/银 (gold/silver)
  • 男/女 (male/female)
  • 正/副 (first/second)
  • 单/双 (single/double)
  • 雄/雌 (masculine/feminine)
  • 公/母 (male/female)
  • 棉 (cotton)
  • 荤/素 (meat/vegetarian)

Double character distinguishing words

  • 双边/多边 (double-sided/many-sided)
  • 木本/草本 (tree/grass)
  • 简装/精装 (standard/special edition)
  • 彩色/黑白 (color/black and white)
  • 首要/次要 (most important/of second importance)
  • 无偿/有偿 (free/at a price)
  • 公立/私立 (public/private)
  • 军用/民用 (military/civilian)
  • 万能 (all powerful)
  • 西式/中式 (Western style/Chinese style)
  • 男式/女式 (male style/female style)
  • 老式/旧式/新式 (old-style/new-style)
  • 洋式 (foreign style)
  • 大型/中型/小型 (large-scale/mid-scale/small-scale)
  • 新型 (new kind)
  • 恶性/良性 (evil/benign)
  • 急性/慢性 (fast-working/slow-working)
  • 酸性/中性/碱性 (acidic/neutral/alkaline)
  • 上等/中等/下等 (top-notch/second-class/low-class)
  • 高等/低等 (superior/inferior)
  • 优等/劣等 (superior/inferior)
  • 次等 (second-class)
  • 高档/中档/低档 (top grade/middle-grade/low grade)
  • 超级 (super-, ultra-)
  • 特级/中级/初级 (superior/average/primary)
  • 远程/中程 (long-distance/medium-distance)
  • 长期/短期/活期 (long-term/short-term/current)
  • 袖珍 (pocket-sized)
  • 课余/业余 (extra-curricular/free-time)
  • 孪生/独生 (born twins/born alone)
  • 野生 (wild)
  • 亲生 (related)
  • 立体 (three-dimensional)
  • 现行 (current)
  • 稀有 (uncommon)
  • 潜在 (hidden)
  • 无私 (selfless)
  • 唯物 (materialistic)
  • 实足 (complete)
  • 人造 (man-made)
  • 国产 (made in one's own country)