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Making Sense of Grammar
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Why do some Chinese sentences use two subjects?

asked Mar 4 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by admin (24,470 points)

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Some Chinese sentences may appear to have two subjects:

1. xiàng      bízi cháng

   elephant nose long

Elephants’ noses are long. / Elephants have long noses. (Li & Thompson 1989, p. 92)

In (1), there seems to be two subjects, xiàng and bízi. But xiàng is actually not a subject, it is a topic (what the sentence is about). And the remaining part of the sentence is a comment (the description of the topic), where bízi is the subject. The relationship between the topic (xiàng) and the subject (bízi) is a part-whole relationship, where bízi is a part of xiàng


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

answered Mar 4 by admin (24,470 points)
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