Formation of binding words in Chinese

formation of binding words

A binding word 连绵词 in Chinese is a word composed of two characters, which are inseparable and always appear together except in special cases. Since a binding word if composed of two characters, it’s very necessary to know the formation. There are several kinds of ways as to the formation of binding words. 

a). Two characters of the binding word have the same consonant.

Examples: 琵琶 pí pá, pipa; 蹊跷 qī qiāo odd; 忐忑tǎn tè, mentally disturbed; 伶俐 líng lì, smart

b). Two characters of the binding word have the the same vowel.

Examples: 叮咛 dīng níng, exhort; 徘徊 pái huái, wander around ; 傀儡 kuǐ lěi, puppet; 唠叨 láo dao, chatter; 蹒跚 pán shān, hobble, walk haltingly; 窈窕 yǎo tiǎo, gentle and graceful

c). Both the consonant and vowel of the two characters are similar or the same.

Examples: 辗转 zhǎn zhuǎn, pass through many hands or places; 缱绻 qiǎn quǎn, deeply attached to each other

d). Neither the consonant nor the vowel of the two characters are the same.

Examples: 妯娌 zhóu lǐ, sisters-in-law; 芙蓉 fú róng, lotus;  蝴蝶 hú dié, butterfly; 玛瑙 mǎ nǎo, agate; 葡萄 pú tao, grape

A binding word can’t be separated. A separate character of a binding word does not make sense, e.g. 尴 alone can’t be used; 忐 alone can’t be used; etc.

真蹊,这事怎么会发生呢?Zhēn qī, zhè shì zěn me huì fā shēng ne? ❌

真跷,这事怎么会发生呢?Zhēn qiāo, zhè shì zěn me huì fā shēng ne?❌

真蹊跷,这事怎么会发生呢?Zhēn qī qiāo, zhè shì zěn me huì fā shēng ne? ✔️

我看到一个猩。Wǒ kàn dào yī gè xīng. ❌

我看到一个猩猩。Wǒ kàn dào yī gè xīng xing ✔️

我妯在医院工作。Wǒ zhóu zài yī yuàn gōng zuò. ❌

我娌在医院工作。Wǒ lǐ zài yī yuàn gōng zuò.❌

我妯娌在医院工作。Wǒ zhóu lǐ zài yī yuàn gōng zuò.✔️

See also:

Chinese word formation

Character formation in Chinese

Formation of phono-semantic characters

Formation of Compound words

Chinese character structure

连绵词

聯綿詞

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