City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Apr 26 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (28,250 points) | 15 views

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The feature of Process vs. Result can explain the semantic and grammatical distinction between the clause element of adverbials and that of complements in a unified and systematic way. Complements make a specific claim for Result, they are reserved for those linguistic and situational contexts where an action, state or event must be perceived as a complete whole, or ‘resultatively’. For example:

a) 看了一遍/半个小时 ‘kàn le yī biàn/bàn ge xiǎoshí’ (read one time/half an hour),

b) 走了十里路 ‘zǒu le shí lǐ lù’ (walked ten li),

c) 花儿红了三天 ‘huār hóng le sān tiān’ (The flowers were red for three days),

d) 心里乐开了花 ‘xīnli lè kāile huā’ (so happy that the heart blooms), etc.

In a), b) and c), the complements are perceived as a part of each predicate verb, complementing the latter to make clear how long the actions of reading, walking and the state of ‘being red’ lasted. In d),开了花 “kāi le huā” is also felt as a part of the stative verb 乐‘lè’ (delight), complementing the latter to show that the state of being happy has developed to a height or a result as it describes.

As the above examples show, most complements follow a verb ending with the perfective particle 了‘le’. 了‘le’ signifies ‘completion’ or ‘cessation’ of a situation by imposing an endpoint on an action or state which otherwise has no endpoint. Thus, the action or state becomes bounded. Bounded situations, like countable nouns, are measurable in terms of time, distance, or extension of the action or state. So, the complements which express the measurements in various forms are essentially resultative. As results always succeed actions, such complements take a postverbal position as opposed to preverbal adverbials in terms of the PTS.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Apr 26 by Ariel (28,250 points)

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