City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Jun 20 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 17 views

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The ‘yǒu’ sentence has a variant form: ‘Reference object or Place + V-zhe + Located object’, for instance: ‘Zhuōzi shàngbian fang zhe/diào zhe yī zhǎn dēng’. (On the table was placed a lamp/Over the table was hanging a lamp). Compare it with a ‘yǒu’ sentence: ‘Zhuōzi shàngbian yǒu yī zhǎn dēng’ (There was a lamp on/above the table). The ‘yǒu’ sentence tells us only the existence of a new entity in a reference object or place, but the spatial relation between the located and the reference object is ambiguous: it could be coincidence if the lamp is placed on the table, or it could be superiority if the lamp is hanging over the table. The ambiguity stems from the meaning of the position word ‘shàngbian’, since it can refer to either the top surface of the table or the space projected upward from the top of the table. To eliminate the ambiguity, the variant form with ‘VP-zhe’ is preferable, which not only states the existence of a located object in the reference object or place, but also gives information about the existence state of the located object.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Jun 20 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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