Chinese has been known to be a language without grammaticalized tense. However, this statement does not mean that native speakers of Chinese cannot tell the temporal location of a Chinese sentence. In addition to temporal phrases, which often are considered to identify the temporal location of a Chinese sentence, the aspectual value of a sentence, either situation aspect or viewpoint aspect, plays a significant role in this issue. Basically, a telic event receives a past interpretation unless explicitly specified otherwise whereas an atelic event gets a present reading until overridden. In addition, there is a possibility, based on examples where the past has an effect on the whole discourse in Chinese instead of single sentences, that tense is a discourse-level feature in Chinese. On the other hand, Chinese has a rich aspectual system, including four aspect markers: perfective le, experiential guò, durative zhe, and progressive zài. The former two are perfective markers and the latter are imperfective markers. Perfective le interacts with eventualities of different situation types to yield different readings. Going with an accomplishment, perfective le receives a completive reading or terminative reading. Presenting an achievement, perfective le gets a completive reading. Perfective le plus an activity forms an incomplete sentence. Together with a state, perfective le induces an inchoative reading. Most of the theories that explain the diverse readings of perfective le resort to the obvious, differentiating point in the temporal schema of a situation: either the (natural) final endpoint or the initial point. Experiential guò has several semantic properties, including at least one occurrence, a class meaning, discontinuity, compatibility only with recurrable situations, and temporal independence. There are two major accounts for the semantics of experiential guò: the temporal quantification account and the terminability as the sole inherent feature account. For the former, experiential guò is considered a temporal quantifier and all the properties follow from the semantic properties of a quantifier. For the latter, terminability is argued to be the sole inherent semantic property for experiential guò and all the properties are derived from discontinuity. The semantics of the two imperfective makers are less complicated. It is generally accepted that progressive zài presents an unbounded, ongoing event but that durative zhe introduces a resultative state. One possible further semantic distinction between progressive zài and durative zhe is that the former has an instant reading whereas the latter has an interval reading. Moreover, the rhetorical function of durative zhe needs to be considered so that a satisfactory explanation for the V1 zhe V2 construction can be achieved.
Yang Gu and Jie Guo
The locative inversion constructions are characterized by a noncanonical word order where a locative phrase is inverted preceding the verb and the thematic subject follows the verb. This phenomenon is found quite common crosslinguistically, though whether “inversion” is the right label for the constructions or not remains controversial. Issues regarding the status of the locative phrase, Case assignment, unaccusativity, verb argument structure, agreement, and the mechanism that triggers this noncanonical word order have been the major concerns in various proposals. The closest constructions that exhibit similar word order found in Chinese are locative existential constructions (LECs). However, the assumption of locative inversion in the constructions requires substantial empirical support. The Chinese LECs depict or present the existence of an entity or an eventuality. As in English and other languages where locative inversion prevails, issues related to the grammatical function of the locative phrase, Case assignment, and types of verbs in LECs draw a lot of attention from researchers in Chinese linguistics. In particular, research on the types of verbs in LECs has important bearing on the possible syntactic derivation of locative existential sentences. The discussions in this article show that the verbs allowed in the constructions vary. Some are intrinsically intransitive postural verbs, and many others are lexical-syntactically derived from ditransitive placement verbs such as fang ‘put’, xie ‘write’, gua ‘hang’, etc. via decausativization. The result of the derivation yields verbs that show alternation with their ditransitive counterparts. These derived verbs are seemingly similar to the unaccusative member of the causative~unaccusative pairs in English, but different in terms of their argument structure and syntactic behavior. The intransitive and the derived verbs found in the LECs are shown to have the same lexical semantic sense of spatial configuration and can be treated on a par with a template of [y Location HAVE z Theme]. The abstract verb HAVE, meaning existentiality but lacking manner of existence, can be lexicalized by verbs, specifying various manner of existentiality. In other words, the argument structure of the verbs in the constructions is
, where the location is realized by a locative phrase, which is a noun phrase in Chinese, base generated in [Spec, vP] in accordance with VP-internal Subject Hypothesis, and the theme by another noun phrase denoting an entity. It is the lexical semantics of these verbs that accounts for not only the general properties of Chinese LECs shared with other languages like English but also the language particular properties such as the word order and the aspect marker obligatorily used in Chinese LECs. Given these particular properties, Chinese LECs are shown not to involve locative inversion.
Functional categories carry little or no semantic content by themselves and contribute crucially to sentence structure. In the generative framework, they are assumed to mark and head functional projections in the basic hierarchical structure underlying each phrase or sentence. Given their intertwining with grammar, child language researchers have long been attracted by the development of functional categories. To a child, it is important to differentiate functional categories from lexical categories and relate each of them to the hidden hierarchical structure of the phrase or sentence. The learning of a functional category is no easy task and implies the development of different dimensions of linguistic knowledge, including the lexical realization of the functional category in the ambient language, the specific grammatical function it serves, the abstract underlying structure, and the semantic properties of the associated structure. A central issue in the acquisition of functional categories concerns whether children have access to functional categories early in language development. Differing accounts have been proposed. According to the maturational view, functional categories are absent in children’s initial grammar and mature later. In contrast to the maturational view is the continuity view, which assumes children’s continuous access to functional categories throughout language development. Cross-linguistic evidence from production and experimental studies has been accumulated in support of the continuity hypothesis. Mandarin Chinese has a rich inventory of function words, though it lacks overt inflectional markers. De, aspect markers, ba, and sentence final particles are among the most commonly used function words and play a fundamental role in sentence structure in Mandarin Chinese in that they are functional categories that head various functional projections in the hierarchical structure. Acquisition studies show that these function words emerge early in development and children’s use of these function words is mostly target-like, offering evidence for the continuity view of functional categories as well as insights into child grammar in Mandarin Chinese.