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 (31,850 points) | 6 views

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The scope of negation normally extends from the negative adverb ‘bù’ or ‘méi’ (no, not) to the end of the sentence. Adverbs occurring before the negative adverb normally lie outside the scope of negation. Therefore, there is a contrast between each pair of the following sentences:

1a. 他不 [常常去体育馆锻炼]。

Tā bù chángcháng qù tǐyùguǎn duànliàn.

(He does not often go to the gymnasium to exercise.)

1a’ 他常常[不去体育馆锻炼]。

Tā chángcháng bù qù tǐyùguǎn duànliàn.

(He often does not go to the gymnasium to exercise.)

1b. 他不[真正相信那些说法]。

Tā bù zhēnzhèng xiāngxìn nàxiē shuōfǎ.

(He did not really believe those words.)

1b’ 真的,他不[相信那些说法]。

Zhēn de,tā bù xiāngxìn nàxiē shuōfǎ.

(Really, he did not believe those words.)

The different interpretations of (1a) and (1b), as indicated by their English counterparts, arise from the different positions of the negative adverb ‘bù’. It is always the adverb which precedes the other that has its semantic scope covering the other. In (1b’), the adverbial ‘zhēn de’ (really) must be interpreted as a sentence adverbial, which, because of its initial position, is not within the scope of

negation.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Jun 10 by Ariel (31,850 points)

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