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Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Jun 10, 2021 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 66 views

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Time duration expressions can be used to refer to measures of time that are not specifically confined to the future or past. Common expressions of this group include: ‘sān ge xiǎoshí’ (three hours), ‘liǎng nián’ (two years), ‘bànnián’ (half a year), ‘yīhuìr’ (for a while), etc. Please look at the examples with time duration expressions:

1a. 我们开会开了{三个钟头}。

Wǒmen kāihuì kāile {sān gè zhōngtóu}.

(We had a meeting for three hours.)

1b. 牡丹花红了{半个多月},才有点儿谢。

Mǔdan huā hóngle {bàn ge duō yuè},cái yǒu diǎnr xiè.

(The peony has been red for half a month, it just withered a little.)

1c. 邮局周一到周五从早九点到晚五点开门。

Yóujú zhōuyī dào zhōu wǔ cóng zǎo jiǔ diǎn dào wǎn wǔ diǎn kāimén.

(From Monday to Friday the post office is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm.)

1d. 邮局每天开门开{八个小时}。

Yóujú měitiān kāimén kāi {bā gè xiǎoshí}.

(The post office is open for eight hours every day.)

1e. 这种树半年都开花。

Zhèzhǒng shù bànnián dōu kāihuā.

(This kind of tree blooms for half a year.)

1f. 这种树每年开花开{半年年}

Zhèzhǒng shù měi nián kāihuā kāi bànnián.

(This kind of tree blooms for half a year every year.)

When an expression of time duration occurs after a VP, as in (1a, b, d, f), it is referred to as a time-measure complement in Chinese grammar. In sentence (1a), the time-measure complement ‘sān gè zhōngtóu’ denotes the continuation of the meeting after it is started. It differs from ‘sāndiǎn’ (three o’clock) in the phrase ‘sāndiǎn kāihuì’ (have a meeting at three o’clock), which signals the point in time at which the meeting begins. The point in time ‘sāndiǎn’ coincides with the initiation of the meeting, hence, in terms of the PTS, it is ordered before the VP, whereas the time duration ‘sān gè zhōngtóu’ is placed after the VP. Please compare (1c) with (1d). The expression of time duration ‘zhōuyī dào zhōu wǔ cóng zǎo jiǔ diǎn dào wǎn wǔ diǎn’ (from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Mon. to Fri.) functions as the temporal frame within which the state of the post office being open applies. Hence, in terms of the PTSC, the time expression is ordered before the VP. The preverbal adverbial of time duration does not emphasize the continuation or extension of the state. By contrast, in sentence (1d), the expression of time duration ‘bā gè xiǎoshí’ (eight hours) appears after the VP as a complement, which focuses on the duration of the state. Thus the two forms, one with preverbal adverbial, the other with post-verbal complement, focus on different aspect of a state.

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

answered Jun 10, 2021 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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