Fellow hubber June Sun is posting a series of reviews of scholarly articles about the development of the modern Mandarin copula shi from ancient uses. Those of you who have had a classical Chinese education are encouraged to look in on June's hubs and to help to provide an English translation for ancient Chinese sentences. We would be most grateful if you could help us to determine whether shi is being used as:
* a "to be" type verb or particle * a third person pronoun -- kind of like he/she/it/that * an adverb/adjective true/truly correct/correctly * an affirmative particle "yes" * other
Please state your training in Classical Chinese and your reasons for the assessment of the usage.
Haunty, here's the problem. I know plenty of Chinese people. June Sun is a native speaker of Mandarin herself. We also do have general translations of the texts in question. So we know what they are generally said to mean. But... if we want to know, in this sentence is this character used to means "be", "he/she/it/that" or "true/correct/truly", nobody can give us a straight answer. So, what I need to do is find someone who has had an education in classical or pre-Classical Chinese who might have near native speaker intuitions about ancient usage.
Have you called the professors at Wesleyan University? A specialist would be the best person to ask. Suggest you contact Stephen C. Angle. I think his email address can be found on the college website.
Normally, shi means an affirmative particle "yes". However, shi is just the accent of a Chinese word. So "shi" can be corresponded to different words in Chinese. Although I am a Chinese, and I understand your question fully, it is hard for me to give a complete answer to you. Seems it is too late for me to answer your question. However, if you want to know the culture and the history of China. You are welcomed to follow my hubs. My hubs are always give a detail description about something in China. I want to help the world to know more about China, and I hope more people like China.