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) | 210 views

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The phenomenon of semantic influence or scope is manifested by focusing adverbs like ‘yě’ (also), ‘zhǐ’ (only, alone) and ‘shènzhì’ (even). Focusing adverbs are peculiar in that their meanings may apply to units of varying size and position. This point is shown by the fact that when a focusing adverbial occurs before a predicate, ambiguities may arise as to the exact item being focused upon.

The speaker has the choice of focusing on the main verb, another part of the

predication, or the whole of the predication. Compare the following sentences containing the focusing adverbial ‘zhǐ’ (only):

1. 王林在办公室给太太打了个电话。

Wáng lín zhǐ zài bàngōngshì gěi tàitai dǎ le ge diànhuà.

(Wang Lin only called his wife from the office.)

In the sentence, if spoken, the item focused by the focusing adverbial ‘zhǐ’ will be associated with an intonational nucleus or stress.

[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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