Chinese Address Terms “Shifu” (师傅) vs. “Shifu” (师父): A Comparative and Diachronic Study Based on the BCC Corpus

Yu Chunli, Nor Shahila Mansor, Lay Hoon Ang, Sharon Sharmini


This paper compares the usage of the address terms “shifu”(师傅) and “shifu”(师父) in Chinese in a diachronic manner. The study investigates the evolution and different usage of the two address terms and analyzes the possible reasons for the different choices to use these address terms. The data for this study comes from the BCC corpus (BLCU Corpus Center), a corpus with tens of billions of words built by Xun Endong et al. (2015, 2016) from Beijing Language and Culture University. The findings show that the highest frequency used for “shifu” (师傅) occured in 1963, while “shifu” (师父) appeared in 2001. The address term “shifu” (师父) is more often used in ancient Chinese, while “shifu” (师傅) is relatively more frequent than “shifu” (师父) in modern and contemporary Chinese. The original meanings between the two address terms are different: “shifu” (师傅) is used as official title to indicate a teacher, while “shifu” (师父) is more related to religions through giving non-evil life and knowledge to others. The research findings will surely benefit the corpus linguistic studies, translation studies and the study of address terms. By resorting to the abundant corpus data, this study could offer a relatively more comprehensive and systematic comparison of the two Chinese address terms by far. Furthermore, it will help further distinguish the two address terms based on the empirical data and detailed case analysis.


Keywords: address term, BCC corpus, comparative study, diachronic study.




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