City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Apr 29 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 30 views

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Among semantic relations of space, we can identify goal. Prepositions denoting the notion of goal includes two kinds: one kind is 向/往‘xiàng/wǎng’ (to, toward), which are basically used for indicating direction, however, they may occur after motional verbs, signaling an ‘intended destination or a goal’. The second kind is the prepositions 到‘dào’, it signals destination or goal of an action. Consider:

1a. 他走{向山下的小学校}。

Tā zǒu {xiàng shānxià de xiǎoxuéxiào}.

(He walked to the elementary school down the hill.)

1b. 火车开{往广州}。

Huǒchē kāi {wǎng Guǎngzhōu}

(The train goes towards Guangzhou.)

1c. 他飞{到了广州}。

Tā fēi {dào le Guǎngzhōu}.

(He flew to Guangzhou.)

1c’ *他飞在了广州。

*Tā fēi zài le Guǎngzhōu.

In (1a, b), prepositional phrases are 向山下的小学校‘xiàng shānxià de xiǎoxuéxiào’ (towards the primary school downhill) and 开往广州‘kāi wǎng Guǎngzhōu’ (drive to Guangzhou). The prepositions 向/往‘xiàng/wǎng’ (towards), because of their basic lexical meaning ‘in the direction of, without necessarily reaching the destination or goal’, denote ‘intended goal or destination’ when occurring after verbs. However, if there is no information to the contrary, the goal or destination is understood to have been or will be reached. Compare (1c) with (1c’), the preposition 到‘dào’ signals explicitly the arrival at the destination or the accomplishment of the goal. Thus it differs from 向/往‘xiàng/wǎng’, and can never be used to signal direction. The preposition 在‘zài’, however, does not denote destination or goal, rather, it signifies the location that the subject referent or the object referent ends up in (intentionally or unintentionally) because of the action named by the verb it combines with, hence the unacceptability of (1c’).

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Apr 29 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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