City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
0 like 0 dislike
44 views
asked Nov 26, 2020 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (28,250 points) | 44 views

1 Answer

0 like 0 dislike

Statements about va­rious aspects of the Beijing dialect will have varying degrees of validity when ap­plied to other dialects. Most of its phonological characteristics are shared by most of the Northern Mandarin dialects, such as redistribution of the Entering Tone into the other tones, the distinguishing of -in from -ing and -en from -eng, the lack of distinction between two mid-vowel phonemes, so that both 阁 and 格 are ger, instead of gor and ger as in Southern and Southwestern Manda­rin. In matters of vocabulary, there is remarkable uniformity in the personal and demonstrative pronouns, even including those of Southwestern and Southern Mandarin. But there are two extremes in vocabulary as regards geographical spread. In science and politics, because the vocabulary is new, most words have a national status, apart from pronunciation. At the other extreme there are local words for certain terms of address, especially terms of direct address, and names of many small plants and small animals, especially insects, for which not only the Beijing forms are local in nature, but for which there are no words in any di­alect which have a national status. There are, to be sure, literary and scientific equivalents for the localisms, but then they are outside the range of everyday speech, which is the style we are studying. Third, it is in matters of grammar that the greatest degree of uniformity is found among all the dialects of the Chinese language. Apart from some minor di­vergencies, such as indirect object before direct object in the Wu dialects and Cantonese—for which Mandarin (like English) has the opposite order, and slight differences in the order of the negative in potential complements in some of the southern dialects, and so on, and apart from differences in suffixes and particles for which, however, fairly close equivalents can be set up between dialects, one can say that there is practically one universal Chinese grammar. Even taking wenyan into consideration, we shall find that the only important differences are that wenyan has more free monosyllabic words and less use of compounds and that its prepositional phrases of locality and origin can follow instead of always preceding the main verb. Otherwise it has substantially the same grammatical structure as, not only the dialect of Beijing, but any dialect. Thus there is even a stronger claim for calling the grammar of the Beijing dialect the grammar of spoken Chinese than calling the Beijing dialect spoken Chinese. Nevertheless, to make it clear that all unqualified citations are possible forms for the Beijing dia­lect, non-Beijing forms will be marked as such, for example, “L” for wenyan, “Wu” for Shanghai, Ningpo, and so on, “Cant” for Cantonese, “dial.” for un­specified dialects, and also “local” for Beijing localisms. The wenyan and dialec­tal forms are occasionally cited to make a contrast or to illustrate a point which can be well exemplified in these other forms. 

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

answered Nov 26, 2020 by Ariel (28,250 points)

1,332 questions

1,628 answers

14 comments

8,462 users

1,332 questions
1,628 answers
14 comments
8,462 users