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Reading the news that Chinese leaders joined with the public to pay homage to the war heroes today in Beijing, I notice that the structure of this phrase 瞻仰 that appears in the text is a main word with a modifier, known in Chinese as 偏正词组, with the word to be modified placed after the modifier. As this phrase means "to look at something with reverence", the main word should be "to look", which is 瞻, and 仰 here means "up" or "respect", so the proper word order should be 仰瞻, not the other way round.

Does it make sense?

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  • Neither word is the modifier of the other. If you treat 瞻仰(景仰/敬仰) as a word/idiom (lookup), then it shouldn't be a problem.
    – r13
    Sep 30, 2022 at 21:30
  • You get me wrong. I of course know the power of convention and will respect the habit of the native users, because even two or more errors can become a right or many rights in China if you happen to know the history of 目不识丁, but here I would like to know why it is so. Oct 1, 2022 at 2:20
  • Please elaborate, what is the relevance of 目不识丁 to this discussion?
    – r13
    Oct 1, 2022 at 3:11
  • Behind the idiom 目不识丁(one doesn't even know a single word), there is a story that an error is made on the word 丁 which should be 个 to refer to the number of words. Oct 1, 2022 at 14:20

1 Answer 1

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It's actually 並列構詞. 瞻 and 仰 have similar meanings.

The earliest record of 瞻仰(瞻卬):

詩 大雅 雲漢:“瞻卬昊天,有嘒其星。” (西周初年至春秋中葉)

At that time, 瞻 and 卬 were treated as separate words. Their meanings are similar.

瞻:向前望或向上望 as in 詩 邶風 燕燕:“~望弗及,泣涕如雨。” It's extended to mean 敬仰,仰望, as in 詩 小雅 小弁:“靡~匪父。” (to look forward or upwards > to venerate)

卬: 舉首向上 as in 莊子天地:“爲圃者卬而視之,曰:‘奈何?’” or as in 國語晉四:“重耳之卬君也,若黍苗之卬陰雨也。” It's extended to mean 敬慕,信任, as in 荀子 議兵:“上足卬則下可用也,上不足卬則下不可用也。” (to raise your head/loop up > to look into the distance, to venerate and trust)

As a 並列詞組, technically at least in early periods either order was possible. But in this case I cannot find a single case. It's probably because 瞻 has an ending m sound in Old Chinese and thus requires a closing mouth. 卬 doesn't. It's easier to end a phrase with an open-mouth sound. Or it is because the 詩 quote is so famous that people use it idiomatically. Or it's possible that the other word was used before 春秋 and written records were lost. Or it's simply that I didn't search through.

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  • Thanks for the explanation, but still I am not so convinced by the account of 仰, because it means "reverence" or "respect" and is not the main point of the phrase. The main point as I said earlier is "to look at", which shall be placed in the latter part of the structure according to the rule, as in 鸟瞰 or 俯视. Oct 1, 2022 at 2:24
  • @NanningYouth Please read my answer carefully. Both 仰 and 瞻 have meanings of to look at, and both of them are extended to also mean reverence. Even a reading of the bold parts will lead you away from those doubts.
    – lilysirius
    Oct 1, 2022 at 3:04
  • Or you’re not familiar with the method of 並列構詞. The inner structure of a phrase doesn’t need to be 偏正. Another important one is 並列. Basically every evolved morpheme has equal status and role in the word or phrase.
    – lilysirius
    Oct 1, 2022 at 3:18

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