City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Jun 10, 2021 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 206 views

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Semantic scope is the general term that is used to describe the semantic influence which negative forms or focusing adverbs, etc. exert on neighboring parts of a sentence (Quirk, et al, 1985). The phenomenon of scope is closely related to the ordering of clause elements, hence it deserves our attention. The position of a negative form, for instance, generally decides whatever follows it as nonassertive (e.g., any, anybody, anything, ever, etc), as shown:

1a. 一些老人从不麻烦任何人。

Yīxiē lǎorén cóngbù máfan rènhé rén.

(Some old people never bother anybody.)

1b. *任何老人从不麻烦一些人。

*Rènhé lǎorén cóngbù máfan yīxiē rén.

(*Any old people never bother some people.)

In such a sentence, the nonassertive form ‘rènhé rén’ (anybody), because it follows the negative word ‘cóngbù’ (never), lies within the scope of negation, whereas the assertive form ‘yīxiē rén’ (some people), which precedes the negative word does not. Therefore, it would be impossible to reverse the positions of the assertive and nonassertive words.

[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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