City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
+1 vote

What is the difference between LE (了) in "他喝了一口水" and "草草了事"?

asked Jan 2, 2018 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by admin (23,690 points)
edited Mar 26, 2018 by admin

1 Answer

0 votes

In the sentence “他喝了一口水” (t¯a h¯e -le y`ı-k˘ou shu/ He took a sip of water.), -le is viewed as a inflectionally bound morpheme affixed to the verbal stem he(喝). It is a perfective marker indicating the realization of the event “taking a sip of water.”

On the other hand, in the phrase “草草了事”(c˘ao -c˘ao li˘ao shì/ To finish a task hastily), -le is a free verb meaning “to finish.”

(According to Chaofen Sun, the inflectional aspect marker -le is a phonologically reduced form that has been grammatically changed over time from a Middle Chinese morphologically free verb “to finish.” Nevertheless, this kind of phonological and morphological change is not reflected in Chinese writing.)

Reference: Chinese: a linguistic introduction by Chao Fen Sun

answered Jan 2, 2018 by admin (23,690 points)
edited Apr 25, 2018 by admin
767 questions
995 answers
2 comments
5,468 users