Narrating the rules. A study of the dynamics of modal markers in Chinese Vinaya translations of the 5th century

De regels vertellen. Een studie van de dynamiek van modale markeringen in Chinese Vinayavertalingen in de 5e eeuw
Start - End 
2023 - 2027 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 
Vinaya texts
modal markers
Buddhist hybrid Chinese
5th century
Chinese Buddhist translations
Monastic rules
Chinese narrative literature



This project focuses on the modal markers used in the Vinaya texts translated into Chinese in the early 5th century: Four-Part Vinaya, Sarvâstivāda Vinaya, Mahīśāsaka Vinaya and Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya. Vinaya - the system of monastic rules - covers nearly all aspects of life, and the language used in the texts is often more colloquial as compared to other types of canonical Buddhist literature, thus, the materials are very important sources for research in Historical Linguistics. 

However, so far, there are only very few detailed studies, and current research has often faced theoretical problems since some critical concepts of modality are difficult to define clearly in the context of premodern Chinese texts. In addition, the rich system of modal markers in Vinaya texts is not sufficiently described. This thesis addresses these problems related to the research of modality in Chinese historical texts, and aims to fill the research gap by analyzing the language of Vinaya texts written in the Buddhist Hybrid Chinese during the Wei and Jin dynasties (220-589 CE).

Through a thorough description of the modal markers used in the texts mentioned above, the projects aims to describe how Vinaya texts express their rules in the form of narratives. Synchronic comparison between Buddhist texts and secular literature will shed light on how Sanskrit or the Vinaya genre influenced Chinese. Finally, the diachronic comparison will help reveal paths of grammaticalisation of modal markers during this period.




Phd Student(s)


Linda Badan