City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Jun 10 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,470 points) | 16 views

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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.)

In (1a), the time duration expression ‘sān gè zhōngtóu’ (three hours) denotes the duration or extension of the action ‘holding the meeting’. It is arrayed after the verb in terms of the PTS, because the extension of the action succeeds the start of the meeting. In Chinese grammar it is termed time-measure complement (TMC), and it constitutes the information focus, thus its postverbal position properly highlights the information it conveys. The verb ‘kāi’ is reduplicated, as it has the object ‘huì’ (the meeting). The VP ‘kāihuì’ (hold a meeting) functions as the subtopic of the sentence, since it expresses generic meaning. Therefore both the verb and the noun are in the ‘bare form’, namely the verb does not take the aspect particle ‘le’, nor does the noun take a determiner. In (1b) the time duration expression ‘bàn ge duō yuè’ (more than half a month) specifies the duration of the state of the flower’s being red. It appears after the inchoative adjective ‘hóng le’ (became red), which signals the initiation of the state. In the real world, the duration of a state follows the initiation of the state; hence the order of the two elements follows the PTS. Compare (1e) and (1f), in (1e) the time adverbial ‘bànnián’ functions as a temporal frame within which the state of blooming holds, while in (1f) ‘bànnián’ (half a year) occurs after the verb ‘kāihuā’ (bloom) as a complement, emphasizing the duration of the state of blooming. The same explanation applies to (1c) and (1d). Thus we see that time duration expressions may function as adverbials occurring before the verb, or as a TMC occurring after the verb. The factor that determines their functions and positions is their meanings, or the information that the speaker wants to emphasize. The organizational principle controlling their positions with respect to the VP is the PTS and PTSC.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Jun 10 by Ariel (34,470 points)

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