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Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Jun 4 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,470 points) | 38 views

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Time-position adverbials normally occur before the verb in terms of the PTSC, as shown:

1a. 我们下午三点开会。

Wǒmen xiàwǔ sāndiǎn kāi huì.

(We will have a meeting at three o’clock in the afternoon.)

1b. 我明天再来看你。

Wǒ míngtiān zài lái kàn nǐ.

(I will come to see you again on Sunday.)

1c. 他马上去打电话叫救护车。

Tā mǎshàng qù dǎ diànhuà jiào jiùhùchē.

(He immediately went to make a phone call for an ambulance.)

1d. 我们下周末去黄石公园玩玩儿。

Wǒmen xià zhōumò qù Huángshí gōngyuán wánwaner.

(Next weekend we will go to Yellowstone Park for fun.)

1e. 回家以后我再告诉你这个消息。

Huí jiā yǐhòu wǒ zài gàosù nǐ zhègè xiāoxi.

(I’ll tell you the news when I get home.)

1f. 你有时间的时候请给我讲讲语法。

Nǐ yǒu shíjiānde shíhou qǐng gěi wǒ jiǎngjiang yǔfǎ.

(When you have time, will you please explain the grammar to me?)

1g. 他病了,三天没上班。

Tā bìng lesān tiān méi shàngbān

(He was sick, and he didn’t go to work for three days.)

1g’他病了{三天}。

Tā bìng le{sān tiān}.

(He was sick for three days.)

In (1a), 三点‘sān diǎn’ (three o’clock) indicates a point in time, if we could imagine the abstract time as a constantly walking clock, then time must progress to three o’clock before the meeting starts. Three o’clock signifies a temporal state, which obtains before the event of starting the meeting. Therefore, in terms of the PTS, the adverbial 三点‘sān diǎn’ (three o’clock) is ordered before the VP 开会‘kāihuì’(hold a meeting). In (1b) we can identify two adverbials: 明天‘míngtiān’ (tomorrow) is a relatively broad time span; and the adverb 在‘zài’, in the sense of ‘on a subsequent

occasion’, signifies a temporal state, which obtains before the event of ‘coming’. Hence, in terms of the PTS, 在‘zài’ is arrayed in front of the verb. The temporal state represented by 在‘zài’ and the event named by the 来‘lái’ both fall within the temporal scope of 明天‘míngtiān’ (tomorrow). So we see that it is the PTSC and the PTS that jointly govern the orders of the time-position adverbials with regard to the VP in (1b). In (1c) the adverb ‘mǎshàng’ (at once) refers to the moment of speaking, it is a temporal state, which precedes or obtains simultaneously with the action of ‘going to call the ambulance’. Again, the word order of (1c) reflects the PTS. Examples of (1d, e) illustrate that the actions named by the VPs take place within the time span denoted by the time position adverbials. Sentence (1g) exemplifies the case that the event of going to work didn’t happen within the temporal scope denoted by 三天‘sān tiān’; this explains the preverbal position of the adverbial 三天‘sān tiān’. Compare (1g) with (1g’), when a time expression is ordered after the VP, it denotes the continuation of a state or an event. In (1g), 没上班‘méi shàngbān’ expresses the event of ‘going to work’ did not happen, an event that never happened cannot have any extension of the action. Therefore, we cannot say 他没上班三天。‘*Tā méi shàngbān sān tiān’. In short, the order of the adverbials of time position with respect to the VPs is controlled by the PTSC.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.

answered Jun 4 by Ariel (34,470 points)

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