Monday, January 02, 2017

What does 夫子之謂也 mean?

In Edwin G. Pulleyblank's book "Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar," the following Chinese sentence and translation appears:
“It (the poem) refers to you, sir.”
Mr. Pulleyblank explains the Chinese sentence was derived from 謂夫子 (위부자) "by moving the object fū zĭ 夫子 in front and repeating with zhī 之 more literally: 'Your honour, him it refers to.'"

I am surprised by Mr. Pulleyblank's explanation because he not only misinterprets the 之 (지), but also ignores the noun predicate marker 也 (야). The 之 (지) in the sentence is the possessive marker, not the pronoun "him." Also, the 謂 (위) should be translated as a noun, not as a verb. Here is my translation of the sentence.
“It is a reference to you, sir.”
The sentence literally translates as "It is your (夫子之) reference (謂也)." 夫子 (부자) was used by disciples to address their master, but it can also be used as a polite "you," which is how it was used here. 謂 (위) can mean "to indicate" or "to denote," which translates in Korean as 가리키다. That means the sentence could translate in Korean as "선생님의 (夫子之) 가리킴이다 (謂也)."

Here is another example from Mr. Pulleyblank's book that uses the same faulty explanation:
“I do not mean this.”
Mr. Pulleyblank believed the sentence came from 不謂此 (불위차) and explained its construction as follows:
The use of fēi 非 as a negative particle in the above example is a carry-over from the earlier construction, in which the exposed element was often introduced by wéi 唯 (惟, 維), its negative fēi 非, or adnominal particles such as jiāng 將 or  必.
 Again, Mr. Pulleyblank seems to be way overthinking the sentence. The 之 (지) in the above sentence is simply the possessive marker, not a pronoun representing an exposed element. Also, the 非 (비) is simply the special negative particle used with noun predicates, not a "carry-over" or anything. Here is my translation:
“It is not () an indication of this (此之謂也).”
The special negative marker 非 (비) and the noun predicate ending 也 (야) are indications that 謂 (위) should be translated as a noun, not as a verb. 此之謂 (차지위) literally translates as "this' (此之) indication (謂)," which would translate in Korea as "이것의 (此之) 가리킴이다 (謂也)." That means the full sentence would translate in Korean as follows: "이것의 가리킴이 아니다."

The above two sentences seem to be rare examples of Mr. Pulleyblank's analysis of Classical Chinese grammar slipping into the Twilight Zone.

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