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Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Apr 26, 2021 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 294 views

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When constructing a sentence as a message, native speakers of Chinese feel it natural to place what is given before what is new or unknown to the hearer.

1 : 小王今天没来上课。

Xiǎo Wáng jīntiān méi lái shàng kè.

(Xiao Wang didn’t come to class today.)

As shown in (1), the subject 小王‘Xiǎo Wáng’ and the adverbial 今天‘jīntiān’ (today), being pieces of information already given, are placed before the predicate verb 没来上课‘méi lái shàng kè’ (did not come to class), which conveys new information. This linear progression from Given to New entails the prominence of the end position of a sentence and the reservation of the initial position for the subject, which usually is given. In terms of information structure, the element in the initial position is referred to as Topic, and that placed in the end position carrying the highest CD, as end-focus. This way of structuring a message is called the Topic and End-Focus Principle.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Apr 26, 2021 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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