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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If the sentence is written, since there is no clear discrimination made by intonational stress, the sentence could conceivably express four different meanings (The item focused has dots beneath it.):

1a. 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.)

(i.e., He didn’t do anything else, such as going home to see her.)

1b. 王林只 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 called his wife only from his office.)

(i.e., He didn’t call her from any other place.)

1c. 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.)

(i.e., He didn’t call anybody else.)

1d. 王林只在办公室给太太 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.)

(i.e., He didn’t do anything else, such as sending his wife an e-mail, etc.)

The various meanings expressed by the paraphrases can be largely distinguished by different positions of the stress. Thus in (1a) the accent will fall on the last NP ‘diànhuà’ (telephone), in (1b), on the NP ‘bàngōngshì’ (office), in (1c), on the NP ‘tàitai’ (wife), and in (1d), on the VP ‘dǎ diànhuà’ (make a phone call). The placement of the stress is referred to as focus, it marks which part of an utterance is meant to represent new or contrastive information. Therefore, stress plays a crucial role in this aspect of grammar.

[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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