City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
0 like 0 dislike
109 views
Why do some Chinese words appear at the beginning of the sentence?
asked Mar 4, 2020 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by admin (25,520 points) | 109 views

1 Answer

0 like 0 dislike

Chinese is a topic-prominentlanguage, which means that the topic (what the sentence is about) comes at the beginning of the sentence. A topic is roughly equivalent to the X in the English expression “As for X, …”. (1) and (2) show how topics come first in Chinese sentences.

(1) Zhāngsān wǒ yǐjīng jiàn – guo le

     Zhangsan I already see GUO LE

     Zhangsan, I’ve already seen (him). 

(2) zhèi – kē          shù yèzi hěn dà

     this – classifier tree leaf very big

     This tree, (its) leaves are very big. (Li & Thompson, 1989, p. 15) 

In (1) and (2), Zhangsan and the tree are what the sentences are about, hence they appear at the beginning of the sentence.

References:

Li, C. N., &Thompson, S. A. (1989). Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar. Univ of California Press.

answered Mar 4, 2020 by admin (25,520 points)

1,521 questions

1,797 answers

23 comments

17,588 users

1,521 questions
1,797 answers
23 comments
17,588 users