5 replies on “3:16 Interview of Justin Tiwald”

  1. J. Williams says:

    This is very interesting. One minor point: In the case of “get it oneself” (zide 自得), I was taught 自 always modifies the verb it directly precedes and that when 自 is in front of a transitive verb it always serves as the object except for when another object is explicitly stated. In which case “get it oneself” would be 自得之, and it would be a case where the object 之 cannot be omitted. If the object 之 is omitted, the meaning is something like “self-attainment”. (If I remember correctly, Pulleyblank gives the example of 王自殺 “the king killed himself” versus 王自殺之 “the king killed him himself”.)

    Perhaps 自得 became an exception to the rule in the context of Neo-Confucianism, which would be useful to know. Or perhaps my teachers have led me astray, which would be useful to know.

  2. Good question! In the post-classical materials that I had in mind, there are many instances of 自得 where some other object is implied even when 之 is omitted, not just in Neo-Confucian writings but in non-Confucian discourses too. Often the implicit object is the Dao, a 道理, or even some trivial bit of knowledge. Sometimes the writers uses 自得 and 自得之 interchangeably.

    Some might say that this is because 自得 was an exception to the rule that you describe, but my strong hunch is just that we’d find the same slipperiness in many phrases that use 自 reflexively. So I probably wouldn’t chalk it up to an idiomatic use of 自得 but just see it as part of the more general tendency of post-classical writers to play fast and loose with stricter rules of classical grammar. I bet that we’d see a decline in strict observance of the rule that you mention in the same texts that also ignore the grammatical difference between 吾 and 我, etc. Not sure when that happened (some people say the late Han?), but it did happen long before the rise of Neo-Confucianism.

    • J. Williams says:

      Very interesting and helpful! I will keep my eyes open for cases where 自得 must be read as 自得之. (Lynn’s translation of Guo Xiang’s Zhuang zhu comes out soon. Guo uses 自得 quite a few times, so it will be interesting to see if Lynn ever reads 自得 as 自得之 in his translation.)

      Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    • J. Williams says:

      (And thanks for interpreting my remarks charitably and realizing I was only talking about 自 as a reflexive adverb and obviously not as a coverb!)

  3. Ah, yes. That would be interesting to know whether Guo Xiang consistently observes the rule!

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