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2.3 Monosyllabicity: morphemes or words? “Although classical Chinese appears to have been a monosyllabic language, modern Mandarin is no longer monosyllabic. Indeed, Mandarin has a very large number of polysyllabic words.” (Li & Thompson 1981: 14; emphasis added) (4) xuéxiào qiézi yóuqī pútáo túshūguǎn kěshì jiàoduì fāmíng liánhé ‘school’ ‘eggplant’ ‘paint’ ‘grape’ ‘library’ ‘but’ ‘proofread’ ‘invent’ ‘join’
“Chinese is also often referred to as a MONOSYLLABIC language, which means that almost all words contain only one syllable” (Lin 2007: 5). “Many of the languages of East Asia, including Chinese, are monosyllabic. This is generally taken to mean that in these languages morphemes are by and large represented by single syllables. Actually there is probably no language in which all morphemes are monosyllables; but in the type of language that we are referring to here, the vast majority of morphemes do in fact consist of single syllables. This is the case with Chinese at all stages of its development. In Modern Chinese there are many polysyllabic words, but these almost always consist of strings of monosyllabic morphemes: a word like diàn-huà ‘telephone’ is made up of two morphemes meaning ‘electric-speech’ respectively: genuinely polysyllabic morpheme like zhīzhu ‘spider’, dāla ‘hang down’, gēda ‘lump’ are decidedly in the minority.” (Norman 1988: 8-9; emphasis added) Chinese is not a monosyllabic language if monosyllabicity refers to words; however, Chinese is indeed monosyllabic if monosyllabicity refers to morphemes. As for English, it is not monosyllabic whether on the word level or on the morpheme level.
2.4 Topic prominence vs. subject prominence “One of the most striking features of Mandarin sentence structure, and one that sets Mandarin apart from many other languages, is that in addition to the grammatical relations of ‘subject’ and ‘direct object,’ the description of Mandarin must also 1
’ Because of the importance of ‘topic’ in the grammar of Mandarin.” (5) Zhāngsān wǒ yǐjīng jiàn-guo Zhangsan I already see-EXP ‘Zhangsan. while the concept of topic appears to be quite crucial in explaining the structure of ordinary sentences in the language. the topic of a sentence is what the sentence is about.’ zhèi-kē shù yèzi hěn dà. a topic can always optionally be followed by a pause in speech.” “What distinguishes topic from subject is that the subject must always have a direct semantic relationship with the verb as the one that performs the action or exists in the state named by the verb. apart from the rest of the sentence. and in fact. It always comes first in the sentence.’ Chinese is a topic-prominent language and English is subject-prominent language. by agreement.” (Li & Thompson 1981: 15) “Basically. since it typically occurs right before the verb and the verb agrees with it in number” (Li & Thompson 1981: 15-16) “In Mandarin.include the element ‘topic. this-cl tree leaf very big ‘This tree. in ordinary conversation. that which is being talked about. and the subject is easy to identify in an English sentence. (its) leaves are very big. and it always refers to something about which the speaker assumes the person listening to the utterance has some knowledge…” (Li & Thompson 1981: 15) “Furthermore. which serves to set the topic. 2 . I’ve already seen (him). the subject may be missing altogether…” (7) hǎo lěng a very cold RF ‘(It’s) very cold. on the other hand.’ le. but the topic need not. CRS (6) “Nearly all English sentences must have a subject. The subject is not marked by position. it can be termed a topic-prominent language. or by any case marker. the concept of subject seems to be less significant.
John-TOPIC Tokyo-in Mary-I. or it may signal the same kinds of semantic relationships as do prepositions in VO languages. and SOV [Greenberg. SVO. Joseph H. namely VSO. MA: MIT Press.o. 1966. 2nd edn.info/feature/81 Greenberg’s word-order correlations: “The order of the verb and the direct object tends to correlate with the order of modified element and modifying element in the following way: (a) If the direct object follows the verb then modifiers of the nouns tend to follow the noun and modifiers of the verb tend to follow the verb.] Dryer 2008: http://wals.” (Li & Thompson 1981: 17) (8) John-wa Tokyo-de Mary-ni at-ta. direction.”) Li & Thompson (1981: 19): “Mandarin is not an easy language to classify in terms of word order.” 3 . and the like.’ Correlations (Li & Thompson 1981: 18) Features That Correlate with the Relative Position of Verb and Object VO Languages OV Languages Head Modifier Modifier/Head Verb/Adverb Adverb/Verb Noun/Adjective Adjective/Noun Noun/Relative Clause Relative Clause/Noun Noun/Possessive (‘of the box’) Possessive/Noun Other Correlations Auxiliary/Verb (‘can’.. possession. Greenberg (ed. Universals of language. for three reasons. meet-PAST ‘John met Mary in Tokyo. And conversely: (b) If the object precedes the verb then modifiers of the noun tend to precede the noun and modifiers of the verb tend to precede the verb. That is. ‘have’) Preposition/Noun No sentence-final question particle Verb/Auxiliary Noun/Postposition Sentence-final question particle (“A postposition in an OV language may be a case suffix …. Cambridge.2.). the order of all types of modifiers in relation to their heads (the words they modify) follows the same order as that of the verb and its direct object. location. 73-113. In Joseph H.5 Word order Greenberg 1966: three major groups of world languages. Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements. namely.
329-351. Mandarin appears to be in this last category. whether it is taken to be verb medial or verb final.” “…the basic structure of sentences can be more insightfully described in terms of the topic-comment relation rather than in terms of the subject-predicate relation. and at the end can be found in Mandarin. Because subject typically appears in the pre-verbal position in Chinese. Chao-Fen & Talmy Givón. according to Sun & Givón (1985).” (Li & Thompson 1981: 26) However. Language 61. yet modifiers must precede their heads. and this is true for both definite and indefinite objects. OV appears at the level of about 10% in text. which is an OV feature. On the so-called word order in Mandarin Chinese: A quantified text study and its implications. 1985. and languages for which no basic word order can be established. SVO languages.g. definiteness] rather than of grammatical functions. Mandarin is a typical VO language in terms of text distribution of VO and OV order. This means that sentences with verb at the beginning.” o “Third.] Therefore. in the middle. as far as the distribution of VO and OV order is concerned. with more of the former than of the latter” (Li & Thompson 1981: 23) SOV and SVO Features of Mandarin (Li & Thompson 1981: 24) SVO Language Features SOV Language Features VO sentences occur OV sentences occur prepositions exist Prepositional phrases precede the V. [Sun. Chinese can be classified as an SVO language. Mandarin is undoubtedly a VO language. except for time and place phrases auxiliaries precede the V Postpositions exist complex sentences are almost always SVO Relative clauses precede the head noun Genitive phrases precede the head noun Aspect markers follow the V Certain adverbials precede the V “…there are VSO languages. 4 . sample texts reveal a greater number of VO than OV sentences. SOV languages.” o “A second and closely related fact is that the order in which basic words and phrases occur is governed to a large extent by considerations of meaning [e.” “Mandarin can be seen to have some of the features of an SOV language and some of those of an SVO language. For example. Mandarin is inconsistent with respect to the features that correlate with VO or OV order according to Greenberg’s typological scheme. the notion of subject is not a structurally well-defined one in the grammar of Mandarin.o “First.
info/feature/81).as Dryer (2008) does in his classification (http://wals. English is also an SVO language. 5 . By the same standard.
Tone and Intonation 1.ac.ucl. 2001.yorku.ucl.Phoneme. A grammar of Mandarin Chinese.html) Consonants in Mandarin (Source: Lin.ca/earmstro/ipa/ IPA consonants (Source: http://www.ac. Hua. p.uk/ipa/fullchart. IPA chart: http://www. Muenchen: Lincom Europa.uk/ipa/fullchart.langsci.langsci. Phoneme and phonological system: Phoneme: The smallest phonetic unit in a language that is capable of conveying a distinction in meaning.25.) 6 .html IPA chart with pronunciation: http://www.
uk/ipa/fullchart. MA. Introductory phonology.ucl.ac.html) 7 . Bruce.langsci. 2009. Malden.Consonants in American English (Source: Hayes. Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell.) IPA vowels (Source: http://www.
Introductory phonology. • With respect to front vowels. dental/alveolar (coronal). /θ ð/). rounding is a relevant feature to Mandarin.) front high mid low unround i round ü central back unround ɤ a round u o Vowels in American English (Source: Hayes. • With respect to plosives/stops. but Mandarin does not. A grammar of Mandarin Chinese. Phonological universals: • The minimal vowel system includes /i a u/. 2009.e. • All languages have stop consonants. being voiced or not is a phonemic feature in English. • If a language distinguishes stops at three places of articulation. but aspiration.) Differences in the phonological system: • English has dental fricatives (i. but not to English. All known languages are said to have these three vowels. p. Hua. or slight variations of them. Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell. Malden. then these places are labial.26.Vowels in Mandarin (Source: Lin. Muenchen: Lincom Europa. but in Mandarin the relevant feature is not voicing. MA. 2001. Bruce. and velar. 8 .
the air from the lungs then pushes through the narrow glottal opening.1 Tone Definition of tone: Other than consonants and vowels. TONE is the third kind of speech element used by languages like Mandarin to distinguish word meanings. The tone bearing unit in Mandarin 9 . how fast the vocal folds vibrate. Each speaker has his or her own normal pitch range. Generally. A high tone has higher pitch and higher F0 and a low tone has lower pitch and lower F0. It is measured in Hertz (Hz) and one Hertz is one cycle per second.2. Therefore. the vocal folds are first brought fairly close together. Tone bearing unit: Tone is not an inherent vowel feature. which is an acoustic term that refers to the frequency of the vocal fold’s vibration of the speech signal itself. the higher the pitch. the pitch is lowered. a change in the pitch of a word can change the meaning of a word. Phonetic properties of tone: The primary acoustic correlate of tone is fundamental frequency (F0). A TONE BEARING UNIT is the phonological entity that a tone is associated with. tone. releasing a puff of air. Tone. The faster the vocal folds vibrate. the main articulatory correlate of tone is the tension of the vocal folds. but the pressure built up from the lungs eventually breaks apart the vocal folds. Tone is a suprasegmental property. tone can be defined as the pattern of pitch changes that affects the meaning of a word. The pitch scale shows relative rather than absolute pitch values. the most important factor that determines the pitch of voice is the tension of the vocal folds. and the perception of tone depends on the perceived pitch level of F0. i. and the higher the F0. In a single cycle of vibration. In ordinary speech. when the vocal folds are slack. • F0 refers to the vibration rate of the vocal folds. That is. • Unlike F0. stress. A SEGMENT is a sound unit such as a consonant or a vowel. the pitch goes higher. the intonation tends to take place within the lower part of the speaker’s pitch range.e. pitch is a perceptual term referring to a listener’s perception of the F0 of the speech signal. F0 is the number of such cycles occurring in a second. which induces a sucking effect to make the vocal folds completely closed to block the air escaping from the lungs. When the vocal folds are stretched or stiff. but in situations where strong feelings are to be expressed it is usual to make use of extra pitch height. and intonation that are not inherent properties of single consonants or vowels but can be associated with a span of more than one segment. intonation. and their functions 2. the higher the F0. • In terms of articulation. suprasegmental properties include length.
falling-rising Tones in Mandarin: Mandarin has four basic tones. low. we distinguish LEVEL TONES versus CONTOUR TONES. tone in Mandarin is mostly manifested on the nuclear vowel of a syllable. A level tone is one that has a relatively consistent pitch level whereas a contour tone is one that changes pitch level within a syllable. tones can be classified into high. and they are phonemic. which are also called citation tones. Level tone: high. and (ii) what the pattern of pitch change is (PITCH CONTOUR). front. falling. In terms of PITCH LEVEL. Contour tone: rising. each tone is classified according to: (i) how high or low the pitch is (PITCH LEVEL). the change of tone can lead to a change of word meaning.e. mid. and low. low b. (1) Simple classification of tone a. Phonetically. i. but tonal features are not the same as vowel features such as high. rising-falling. and in terms of PITCH CONTOUR (the shape of the pitch changes).has been variously proposed to be the syllable or the rime [typically a vowel (and its following consonant that belongs to the same syllable)]. Tone classification: Since tone is manifested by the pitch of the voice. 5 high pitch 4 mid-high 3 middle 2 mid-low 1 low pitch (2) Tonal contrasts in Mandarin (Lin 2007: 89) Tone number 1 2 3 4 Pitch pattern high level high rising low falling-rising high falling Pitch Value 55 35 214 51 10 Example [ma]55 mā ‘mother’ 妈 [ma]35 má ‘hemp’ 麻 [ma]214 mǎ ‘horse’ 马 [ma]51 mà ‘to scold’ 骂 . and back that indicate vowel quality. mid.
mǎ (horse). The neutral tone occurs in an unstressed short syllable in non-initial position in a word or phrase and it must be preceded by at least one syllable that has one of the four basic tones. to bind). guǒ (to wrap.• In terms of tonal classification. In addition to the four basic tones. guo (experiential aspect marker) • • 11 . mà (to scold). Mandarin has one level tone and three contour tones. we can think of the syllable with a neutral tone as being toneless (without any tone) and the phonetic pitch value of the toneless syllable results from the extension and influence of the preceding tone. guó (country). The pitch level and contour of the neutral tone varies and depends on the preceding tone. Then the neutral tone is not a phonemic tone like the other four since it has no tone to begin with and it occurs only in highly restricted contexts. guò (to cross).” (emphasis added) However. Mandarin also has a neutral tone. Lin 2007: 99: “…for our purposes. má (hemp). ma (question particle) guō (pot). the neutral tone can be phonemic: mā (mother).
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