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Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Jun 18 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 19 views

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‘X zài Y hòubian’ (X is in back of Y) (e.g., Qiú zài zhuōzi hòubian) (The ball is in back of the table.) is the converse of ‘X zài Y qiánbian’ (X is in front of Y). The compound position noun ‘Y hòubian’ refers to the back or to the domain/ space projected from the rear of the reference object. The statement ‘X zài Y hòubian’ is true if the located object is on or has contact with the back, or occupies a position in the space projected from the rear of the reference object. In the latter case, the located object has the relation of posteriority to the reference object.

1a. 房子前边是一个大花园,房子后边也有一个小花园。

Fángzi qiánbian shìyīgè dà huāyuán, fángzi hòubian yěyǒu yī gè xiǎo huāyuán.

(In front of the house there is a big garden, in back of the house there is also a small garden.)

1b. 柜台后边站着两位服务员。

Guìtái hòubian zhànzhe liǎng wèi fúwùyuán.

(Behind the counter were standing two attendants.)

1c. 自行车前边的轮胎破了。

Zìxíngchē qiánbian de lúntāi pò le.

(The tube in the front tire of the bicycle was ruptured.)

1d. 书桌前边贴着一张字条。

Shūzhuō qiánbian tiē zhe yī zhāng zìtiáo.

(On the front of the desk was glued a note.)

In (1a), the located object gardens occupy the space projected outward from the front and the back of the house. A similar explanation applies to the situation of (1b). In (1c, d), the sentences are true only when the located object ‘lúntāi’ (tire tube) has frontal contact with the reference object ‘zìxíngchē qiánbian’ (the front part of the bicycle) and ‘shūzhuō qiánbian’ (the front of the desk) respectively. In each case, ‘the front’ of the reference object is determined by the intrinsic properties of the object concerned. Conventionally, the front of a desk is determined by the drawers (if there are any) that the speaker faces, and the front of a bicycle by the direction of the motion of the bicycle, etc.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Jun 18 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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