City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
0 like 0 dislike
23 views
asked Jun 20 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,470 points) | 23 views

1 Answer

0 like 0 dislike
The identifying ‘shì’ sentence pattern: ‘NPloc (Reference object) + shì + Located object’ This sentence pattern is similar to the existence ‘yǒu’ pattern in word order. The NP of place occurring in the sentence-initial position is definite in the sense that its existence has already been established in the discourse context either linguistically or extra-linguistically. The basic function of the copula ‘shì’ is to identify or characterize a thing, so in the sentence encoding spatial relationship, the copula ‘shì’ is to identify or characterize the located object that occurs at the end of the sentence. This pattern differs from the ‘yǒu’ sentence in that the speaker is aware that the hearer knows about the existence of a located object in a certain place, and he believes that the hearer is interested in the object. Therefore, the speaker wants to tell the hearer what that located object is which exists in the reference object. Thus this sentence pattern is pragmatically different from the ‘yǒu’ sentence, so they are used in different discourse contexts, which will be further explained in the following examples.

1a. 桌子上边是我给妹妹买的新字典。

Zhuōzi shàngbian shì wǒ gěi mèimei mǎi de xīn zìdiǎn.

(On the table is the new dictionary that I bought for my younger sister.)

1b. 大楼对面是/有一家四川饭馆。

Dàlóu duìmiàn shì/yǒu yījiā Sìchuān fànguǎn.

(Opposite the building is a Sichuan restaurant.)

1c. 我们的教室左边是二班的教室。

Wǒmen de jiàoshì zuǒbian shì èr bān de jiàoshì.

(To the left of our classroom is the classroom of Class 2.)

1c’ *我们的教室左边有一个二班的教室。

*Wǒmen de jiàoshì zuǒbian yǒu yī gè èr bān de jiàoshì.

2. 山下边有一片小树林。

Shān xiàbian yǒu yī piàn xiǎoshùlín.

(Down the hill there is a wood).

For (1a) to be appropriate, the speaker believes that the existence of the located object ‘a book’ is evident to the hearer, but what is unknown to him is the identity of the object, and the speaker also has reason to believe that the hearer has an interest in knowing about the object. In (1b), if ‘yǒu’ sentence is chosen, the speaker simply informs the hearer of the existence of a Sichan restaurant in a certain place as a piece of new information, there is no assumption that the hearer has any knowledge of the restaurant. The ‘shì’ sentence, on the other hand, is appropriate only under the condition that the speaker believes that the hearer has some knowledge about the existence of restaurants nearby, and he wants to identify which one is a Sichan restaurant. But (1c’) is unacceptable, because in a certain school and for a certain grade, there is only one ‘Class Two’, it is definite, so it cannot be preceded by an indefinite noun marker ‘yíge’ (one). Please compare sentence (1) and (2), we see that the verb ‘yǒu’ introduces a located object totally unknown to the hearer, its existence is not presupposed. Thus the ‘yǒu’ construction is often used for description of a place.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Jun 20 by Ariel (34,470 points)

1,435 questions

1,732 answers

21 comments

11,652 users

1,435 questions
1,732 answers
21 comments
11,652 users