City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Apr 21 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 24 views

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The Chinese language adopts two fundamental ways of viewing actions, states or events in the world: focusing either on the Process involved in an event or on its Result (endpoint, goal, destination, and outcome). This dichotomous viewpoint of Process vs. Result is reflected in Chinese verbal aspects, verbal lexicon, clause elements and in its sentence structures. To illustrate the point, we will now look at the verbal classes of Chinese.

In parallel with the dichotomy of Process vs. Result, Chinese verbs have the division of Activity verbs vs. Resultative Verb Compounds (RVC). An Activity verb denotes an action that ends with no result, as ‘找zhǎo’ (look for) in ‘那本书我找了。Nà běn shū wǒ zhǎo le’ (I looked for that book), while an RVC, made by adding a resultative complement to an Activity verb, expresses the meaning that the activity extends to the endpoint of reaching the goal, as ‘找到zhǎodào’ (find) in ‘要把那本书找到。Yào bǎ nà běn shū zhǎodào’ (You must find the book). Though an RVC makes the meaning of goal attainment explicit, it is not yet a reference to the fact of an actual attainment. To indicate that the attainment is a fact, an RVC has to take its perfective form ‘了le’, as is the case of ‘找到了zhǎodào le’ (has found), in which the perfective aspect particle ‘了le’ is added to signify clearly the attainment of goal or result. Theoretically speaking, the attainment of a goal presupposes the implementation of an action, but the implementation of an action does not necessarily presuppose the attainment of result. To bring this semantic distinction to the fore, two sets of verbs: Activity verbs that express processes and RVCs that focus on results, are produced as needed.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Apr 21 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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1,439 questions
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21 comments
12,827 users