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Chinese Essential Grammar 2nd Ed

Chinese Essential Grammar 2nd Ed

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Published by: bingoli on Oct 31, 2011
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Finally, in Chinese any grammatical category or construction may be
attached without de to a following noun headword to become a
word or idiom in the language:


old-age pension
(lit. support-old-money)


light music (lit. light-music)






travel agent (lit. travel-society)

shuAngrénchuángdouble bed (lit. two-people-bed)


tape recorder (lit. record-sound-

Note: The italics mark out the attributives from the (non-italicised) headwords.


Part II



Verbs in Chinese (as in English) may be divided into three major cat-
egories: the verb shì [to be], the verb ynu [to have] and a broad set
of verbs that may be loosely called action verbs. Shì [to be] is used
to introduce nominal predicates. It does not occur with adjectival pre-
dicates, which come directly after the (pro)nominal subject without any
copula, usually with the reinforcement of a degree adverb. Many such
adjectives, if followed by the particle le, can acquire a function sim-
ilar to verbs; we have called these state verbs, since they signify state
rather than action. Ynu [to have], as well as indicating possession,
may express existence, providing the structure for introductory phrases
like [there is/are] in English. Action verbs embrace a wide range of
semantic groups including motion verbs, modal verbs, attitudinal verbs,
intentional verbs, dative verbs, causative verbs, etc. Analysis of these
groups enables the characterisation of many verbal constructions and
their functions.

One feature common to all verbs in Chinese is that they do not
conjugate for tense. The time of the action speciyed by the verb is
normally indicated by placing a time expression before the verb or at
the beginning of the sentence. Chinese verbs do have to be related to
aspect, however, in that there needs to be some indication of whether
the action has been completed, is ongoing, or is part of past experience.
This is achieved by introducing an aspect marker le, guo, or
D zhe as a sufyx to the verb, or zài directly before the verb.
Action verbs without aspect markers usually express habitual action or

Expressions indicating location, like time expressions, come before
the verb. This means that the action of a verb is always expressed
against a previously established setting of time and place.
Everything that comes after the verb (apart from the object) we have
put in the category of complement. The various types of complement,




indicating duration, frequency, result, direction, manner, consequential
state, etc., follow logically from the action of the verb. One interesting
feature of result and direction complements is that they can be con-
verted into potential complements. Such potential complements have a
slightly different emphasis from néng [to be able], which is one of
a substantial number of modal verbs in Chinese.
Chinese, as a verb-oriented language, encodes most ideas in terms of
verbs (instead of prepositions, abstract nouns, long attributives, etc.). It
is therefore important to understand the central role of verbs inChinese
sentences and the various syntactic elements associated with them.

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