City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Nov 25, 2020 in Questions about English Grammar by Ariel (34,470 points) | 611 views

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Bloomfield (Lg, 163-165) speaks of four ways of arranging linguistic forms that constitute the grammar of language: (a) order, (b) modulation, (c) phonetic modification, and (d) selection. Although these are applicable to all languages, the parts they play in Chinese are of very unequal importance. In modern Chinese, modulation and phonetic modification are of minor importance, while order and selection bear the main burden of gram­matical arrangement. As we have already discussed selection in the preceding section, and as order of the type like 狗咬人,人咬狗。Goou yeau ren, ren yeau goou. ‘Dog bites man, man bites dog.’ is too well known to need elaboration, we need only give a few examples of the other two elements.

Modulation consists of differences in stress, juncture, and intonation. For example, 鸡, 肉 ji, row ‘chicken, meat’, with a pause in between, is a coordi­nate construction of two nouns, whereas 鸡肉 jirow ‘chicken meat’, with no pause, is a subordinate construction, where ji modifies row. 煎饼 ijian biing ‘fries cake’, with main stress on biing, is a verb-object (V-O) construction, but jian biing ‘fried cake’, with stress on jian and neutral tone on biing, is a sub­ordinate compound.

Phonetic modification as a grammatical process is no longer active. Exam- plesare 长:。长 charng:jaang ‘long : grows (becomes long)’, 刷:涮 shua (< swato): shuann (< swano) ‘scours: rinses’. Since the tones are part of the pho­nemic make up of words, changes of tone corresponding to grammatical differ­ences are phonetic modification and not modulation. Thus, 卷3:4 jeuan: jiuann to roll: a roll’, 好3:好4 hao:  haw 4 ‘good: finds good, i. e., likes’ are ca­ses of phonetic modification.

Note that mere phonetic difference is not phonetic modification in the gram­matical sense. Thus, there is phonetic modification in ‘man: men’, ‘send: sent’, but not in ‘bad: bed’ or ‘feed: feet’, any more than between ‘cabbages’ and ‘kings’. Similarly, there is mere phonetic difference in 包 bau ‘wraps’ and 跑 pao ‘runs’, in 枪 chiang ‘spear, gun’ and 仓 tsang  ‘storehouse’, or for that matter in 风 feng ‘wind’, 马 maa ‘horse’, and 牛 niou ‘cow’. They are sim­ply phonetically different. But even when there is true phonetic modification, for practical purposes they can be treated more conveniently as arbitrary lexical facts of phonetic difference. One cannot say, for instance, that a 4th Tone changes a noun into a verb. The moment one gets such an impression from a few cases like 种3 joong ‘seed’ 种4 jonq 4 to plant’, there comes an opposite case like 处4 chuh ‘place’ 3 chuu ‘to be placed, live with’. The situation is not only so in mod­ern Chinese but was so in historical times.

[1] Chao Y R. A grammar of spoken Chinese[M]. Univ of California Press, 1965.

answered Nov 25, 2020 by Ariel (34,470 points)

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