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) | 126 views

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The scope of negation determines that some adverbials, for example, those adverbials of manner or subject-oriented adverbials, cannot lie outside the scope of negation, or they cannot occur before the negative adverb ‘bù’ or ‘méi’:

4a. 他不 [认真地批改学生的作业]。

Tā bù rènzhēn de pīgǎi xuésheng de zuòyè.

(He does not correct the students’ homework meticulously.)

4a’ *他认真地[不批改学生的作业]。

*Tā rènzhēn de bù pīgǎi xuésheng de zuòyè.

(*He meticulously does not correct the students’ homework.)

4b. 他不[耐心地帮助同学]。

Tā bù nàixīn dì bāngzhù tóngxué.

(He does not help his classmates patiently.)

4b’ *他耐心地[不帮助同学]。

*Tā nàixīn dì bù bāngzhù tóngxué.

(*He patiently does not help his classmates.)

4c. 他不[粗暴地对待孩子]。

Tā bù cūbào de duìdài háizi.

(He does not treat his children rudely.)

4c’ *他粗暴地[不对待孩子]。

Tā cūbào de bù duìdài háizi.

(*He rudely does not treat his children.)

(4a’) is not acceptable, because the adverb ‘rènzhēn de’ (meticulously) depicts the subject referent’s manner of performing the action named by the verb, the meaning of the adverb does not allow the interpretation that one can be meticulous about not doing something. Likewise, the subject-oriented adverbial ‘cūbào de’ (rudely), which characterizes the subject referent’s state when he performs the action, does not allow the possibility that with that state, one does not perform the action. Because of their meanings, those adverbials can be placed within the scope of ‘bù’ or ‘méi’, but they cannot lie outside of the scope of negation.

The above examples demonstrate the interaction between negation and some adverbs. The interaction has to do with the meaning of the adverb in question and the scope of the negative adverbs. The order of adverbs and the negative adverb is a direct reflection of the phenomenon of scope. The generalization is that: an adverb following the negative adverb ‘bù’ or ‘méi’ falls within the scope of negation, whereas an adverb preceding the negative adverb lies outside the scope of negation.

[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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