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Article

Object-Fronting in Archaic Chinese  

Victor Junnan Pan and Yihe Jiao

The SOV order is very productive in Archaic Chinese. Most scholars believe that Archaic Chinese has SVO as basic word order and that SOV is derived by fronting the direct object from the postverbal position to a preverbal position. The most frequent cases involving object fronting in Archaic Chinese are those with pronominal objects. For instance, when the direct object is an interrogative pronoun, a demonstrative, or an ordinary personal pronoun appearing in a negative sentence, it is usually fronted to a preverbal position. Historically, object fronting has already been observed in oracle bone script, and gradually disappeared in the Han dynasty (202 bce–220 ce). After the Wei and Jin dynasties (220–420 ce), object fronting was extremely rare, and it only occurred in fixed expressions, which even stay in Modern Chinese in the early 21st century. Object fronting in Archaic Chinese can be roughly classified into two categories: unmarked object fronting and marked object fronting. The former category includes cases in which the object is positioned in a preverbal position or a pre-prepositional position without any morphosyntactic marking devices, while the latter category includes cases in which the fronted object can be either preceded or followed by some morphosyntactic markers. For instance, a fronted object can be followed by shì (是) or zhī (之), both of which are the most frequent markers co-occurring with a fronted object in Archaic Chinese. Given that both zhī (之) and shì (是) were used as pronouns and demonstratives in Archaic Chinese, when they appear in sentences involving object fronting, some scholars treat them as resumptive pronouns referring to the object NP. Due to the presence of the resumptive pronoun, object NP is allowed to be fronted in a preverbal position. In fact, there is no fixed position as a landing site for fronted objects in Archaic Chinese; instead, different preverbal positions exist. Fronted objects can be followed by functional elements of different categories: negative elements such as bù (不), wèi (未), mò (莫), and wú (无); ordinary adverbs such as qián (前) ‘before’ and jūn (均) ‘all’; modal verbs such as néng (能) ‘be able to’, dé (得) ‘be able to’, gǎn (敢) ‘dare’, and kěn (肯) ‘be willing to’; control verbs such as rěn (忍) ‘bear’ and zhī (知) ‘know’; conjunctions such as yì (亦) ‘and’, yòu (又) ‘and, as well as’, and shàng (尚) ‘yet’; and modal adverbs such as qí (其) indicating a rhetorical meaning, jiāng (将) ‘will, would’ and qiě (且) ‘will, would’. Object fronting in Archaic Chinese is closely linked to information structure. For instance, when the focalized element in a negative sentence is the direct object, then such an object will be fronted.

Article

Resumption in Mandarin Chinese  

Victor Junnan Pan

Resumptive pronouns (RPs) exist in different types of A'-dependencies in Mandarin Chinese, such as relativization, left-dislocation (LD) structures, cleft sentences, across-the-board (ATB) constructions, and so on. Diachronically, resumptive dislocation structures were documented in the literature as early as 502 bce. In modern Chinese, the obligatory use, the systematical use, and the intrusive use of RPs are all observed. When a prepositional object is A'-extracted, the extraction site must be occupied by an RP given that Chinese does not permit preposition stranding. In certain island-free contexts, an RP and a gap are free alternatives in relatives and in LD structures. However, RPs can redeem the potential violation of island constraints in an LD structure but not in a relative clause. Gap strategy is always subject to locality constraints. Resumptive strategy gives rise to island effects in relatives but not in LD structures. In addition, two empty categories should be distinguished one from the other: gap and pro. The extraction of the direct object of action verbs causing direct physical effects on the object-patient, such as ōudǎ ‘beat’, will leave a gap, which potentially gives rise to island effects. By contrast, the extraction of the object of stative and psycho verbs that do not cause any physical effects on the object, such as xīnshǎng ‘appreciate’, never gives rise to island effects. It is assumed that these verbs take pro as their complement and that pro functions as an RP in these structures, which saves the sentence from the potential violation of island constraints..

Article

Sentence-Final Particles in Chinese  

Victor Junnan Pan

Chinese has a rich system of Sentence-Final Particles (SFPs). Traditional grammar and descriptive linguistic studies attempt to capture the precise semantic interpretation and the discourse function of each particle. Much work related to this aspect tries to find out what the core semantic interpretation of a given SFP is, how the diverse interpretations of a given SFP are developed from its core interpretation, and in what context the use of a given SFP is licit. Linguists from different disciplines have made important observations and offered various explanations. On the other hand, diachronic studies trace the origin and the evolution of each SFP, which helps understand the core semantics of SFPs in modern Chinese. Studies on different Chinese dialects also help the understanding of the meaning and the function of SFPs from a comparative perspective. Under the generative framework, SFPs are analyzed as complementizers, which are located in the peripheral domain. Both traditional grammarians and generative syntacticians are interested in patterns like the rigid order that necessarily shows whenever SFPs co-occur. They attempt to establish the hierarchical order of SFPs and identify the general principle that regulates such an order. Recent studies show that such an order is regulated by a discourse constraint related to subjectivity, according to which the higher a functional projection is located, the more directly it is for such a projection to be linked to the speaker’s attitude, the more subjective the interpretation of such a projection becomes, and the less likely it is for such a projection to be embedded. This constraint offers an explanation to the question of why only some SFPs can appear in embedded clauses whereas the others demonstrate root properties. Syntacticians are also interested in the question of how to derive the final order of SFPs. Two analyses are available: disjunction analysis and complement-to-specifier raising analysis. A more recent finding is that under the minimalist framework, each SFP heads a phase and bears an EPP feature. Complement-to-specifier raising is required as a last resort to satisfy the Extended Projection Principle (EPP). The complement of an SFP is moved to the phase edge to postpone the transfer of the phrases that are embedded within the complement, which allows these phrases to be extracted later.

Article

The Passive Construction in Chinese  

Haihua Pan and Xiaoshi Hu

Central to the passive construction in Chinese is the categorial status of the passive marker bei and the syntactic nature of passivization. In this respect, different analyses have been proposed in the literature. The passive marker bei is argued to be a preposition, a verb, or a passivization morpheme. Accordingly, some scholars propose analysis of Chinese bei-passives as non-canonical passives, which are different from the be-passive in English. By contrast, others argue differently and think English be-passivization in terms of unaccusativization also applies to Chinese bei-passives, and the only difference between Chinese and English is that the passivization domain for Chinese is the whole verb phrase while that for English is the verb only. In the article, we will review different proposals on the bei-passive in Chinese by examining their crucial arguments and identifying their potential problems.

Article

Discourse Coherence in Chinese  

Saina Wuyun

Discourse coherence is motivated by the need of the speaker to be understood, which is a psychological phenomenon reflected in the organization of natural discourse. It can be realized via the continuity or recurrence of some element(s) across a span (or spans) of text; alternatively, it can be defined in terms of cohesion, where the interpretation of some element in the discourse is dependent on that of another. The study of Chinese discourse can be traced back to the Han Dynasty, when the area of endeavor known as classical article-logy (Wénzhāngxué: 文章学) was affiliated to literature. The study of discourse coherence of modern linguistic sense starts from the late 1980s, when counterparts of ‘discourse analysis’, ‘discourse coherence’, and ‘cohesion’ in Chinese linguistic study were assigned a roughly equivalent connotation to those in the West. Two different approaches are differentiated based on the different foci of attention on this issue, namely the entity-oriented and the relation-oriented approach. The former focuses on the continuity of a particular element called “topic” in discourse and the topic chain thus formed, while the latter concerns itself with the connective relations within a discourse and the devices being adopted to realize these relations. Existing analyses toward discourse coherence in Chinese provide different classifications of coherence realization, most of which can be grouped into either of these two orientations. Topic continuity is one way of realizing discourse coherence in Chinese. The topic of a discourse is what the discourse is about, and always refers to something about which the speaker/writer assumes the receiver has some knowledge. Headed by the topic, a topic chain is a stretch of discourse composed of more than one clause that functions as a discourse unit in Chinese. A topic can play a continuing or (re)introductory role with regard to the previous discourse and a chaining or contrastive role with regard to the subsequent discourse within a topic chain. It is via these specific functions that the coherence of a discourse is maintained. Traditional approaches to composite sentences and clause clusters in Chinese provide careful description of the realization of both coordination and elaboration relations, which to a large extent are consistent with the systemic functional approach toward the cohesive devices and the Rhetorical Structure Theory framework. These traditional classifications of cohesive relations are still referred to by current studies. Via the connective devices (implicit ones such as the underlying logical relation, or explicit ones such as connective adverbs and conjunctions), the logical relation between adjacent clauses are specified, and in turn a global coherent discourse is constructed. A coherent discourse is a cluster of clauses bearing all kinds of semantic relations realized via explicit or implicit connective devices. The coherence of discourse relies on the internal cohesive relations within a topic chain as well as the connection among all topic chains of the discourse in question. The study of inner-sentential composition as well as the inter-sentential discourse connectiveness are both investigations on the cohesion of a discourse in Chinese.

Article

Verb Concatenation in Asian Linguistics  

Benjamin Slade

Across a large part of Asia are found a variety of verb-verb collocations, a prominent subset of which involves collocations typically displaying completive or resultative semantics. Such collocations are found in Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages of South Asia, Turkic and Iranian languages of Central Asia, and in Chinese languages. In South and Central Asian languages, verb-verb collocations usually involve some added aspectual/Aktionsart element of meaning, frequently (though not exclusively) indicating completion of an event and sometimes involving speaker evaluation of the event (e.g., surprise, regret). Thus Hindi Rām-ne kitāb paṛh diyā, literally “John read-gave the book,” with the sense “John read the book out.” In Chinese languages, many verb-verb collocations involve a resultative sense, similar to English “Kim ran herself/her shoes ragged.” However, earlier Chinese verb-verb collocations were agent-oriented, for example, She-sha Ling Gong“(Someone) shot and killed Duke Ling,” where she is “shoot” and sha is “kill.” In Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, and Central Asian languages, we find verb-verb collocations that evolve from idiomaticization and grammaticalization of constructions involving converbs, for example, a collocation meaning “he, having eaten food, left” acquires the meaning “he ate food (completely).” Similarly, the Chinese verb-verb resultatives derive from earlier verb-verb “co-ordinate” constructions (originally with an overt morpheme er: ji er sha zhi “struck and killed him”), which functionally is similar to the role of converbs in South and Central Asian languages. While these Asian verb-verb collocations are strikingly similar in broad strokes, there are significant differences in the lexical, semantic, and morphosyntactic properties of these constructions in different languages. This is true even in closely related languages in the same language family, such as in Hindi and Nepali. The historical relation between verb-verb collocations in different Asian languages is unclear. Even in geographically proximate language families such as Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, there is evidence of independent development of verb-verb collocations, with possible later convergence. Central Asian verb-verb collocations being very similar in morphosyntactic structure to South Asian verb-verb collocations, it is tempting to suppose that for these there is some contact-based cause, particularly since such collocations are much less prominent in Turkic and Iranian languages outside of Central Asia. The relation between South and Central Asian verb-verb collocations and Chinese verb-verb collocations is even more opaque, and there are greater linguistic differences here. In this connection, further study of verb-verb collocations in Asian languages geographically intermediate to Central and South Asia, including Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese, is required.

Article

Hmong-Mien Languages  

David R. Mortensen

Hmong-Mien (also known as Miao-Yao) is a bipartite family of minority languages spoken primarily in China and mainland Southeast Asia. The two branches, called Hmongic and Mienic by most Western linguists and Miao and Yao by Chinese linguists, are both compact groups (phylogenetically if not geographically). Although they are uncontroversially distinct from one another, they bear a strong mutual affinity. But while their internal relationships are reasonably well established, there is no unanimity regarding their wider genetic affiliations, with many Chinese scholars insisting on Hmong-Mien membership in the Sino-Tibetan superfamily, some Western scholars suggesting a relationship to Austronesian and/or Tai-Kradai, and still others suggesting a relationship to Mon-Khmer. A plurality view appears to be that Hmong-Mien bears no special relationship to any surviving language family. Hmong-Mien languages are typical—in many respects—of the non-Sino-Tibetan languages of Southern China and mainland Southeast Asia. However, they possess a number of properties that make them stand out. Many neighboring languages are tonal, but Hmong-Mien languages are, on average, more so (in terms of the number of tones). While some other languages in the area have small-to-medium consonant inventories, Hmong-Mien languages (and especially Hmongic languages) often have very large consonant inventories with rare classes of sounds like uvulars and voiceless sonorants. Furthermore, while many of their neighbors are morphologically isolating, few language groups display as little affixation as Hmong-Mien languages. They are largely head-initial, but they deviate from this generalization in their genitive-noun constructions and their relative clauses (which vary in position and structure, sometimes even within the same language).

Article

Construction-Based Research in China  

Xu Yang and Randy J. Lapolla

Research on construction-based grammar in China began in the late 1990s. Since its initial stages of introduction and preliminary exploration, it has entered a stage of productive and innovative development. In the past two decades, Chinese construction grammarians have achieved a number of valuable research results. In terms of theoretical applications, they have described and explained various types of constructions, such as schematic, partly variable, and fully substantive constructions. They have also applied the constructionist approach to the teaching of Chinese as a second language, proposing some new grammar systems or teaching modes such as the construction-chunk approach (构式-语块教学法), the lexicon-construction interaction model (词汇-构式互动体系), and trinitarian grammar (三一语法). In terms of theoretical innovation, Chinese construction grammarians have put forward theories or hypotheses such as the unification of grammar and rhetoric through constructions, the concept of lexical coercion, and interactive construction grammar (互动构式语法). However, some problems have also emerged in the field of construction grammar approaches. These include a narrow understanding of the concept of construction, a limited range of research topics, and a narrow range of disciplinary perspectives and methods. To ensure the long-term development of construction-based research in China, scholars should be encouraged to make the following changes: First, they should adopt a usage-based approach using natural data, and they should keep up with advances in the study of construction networks. Second, they should broaden the scope of construction-based research and integrate it with language typology and historical linguistics. Finally, they should integrate cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research findings and methods. In this way, construction-based research in China can continue to flourish and make significant contributions to the study of grammar and language.