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 (34,470 points) | 24 views

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The spatial concept of location, which expresses the dependent relationship between a located object and a reference object. The reference object or the place is often represented by a compound position word, whose formation follows the Chinese conceptual Principle of Whole-Before-Part, as in ‘zhuōzi shàngbian’ (the top of the table), ‘huāyuán lǐbian’ (the inside of the garden). The spatial relations denoted by the position words and the three sentence patterns used to express location are examined. The selection of one of the three constructions is determined by the information status of the located object and the reference object involved and the speaker’s focus and perspective. When the reference object is definite, or when the speaker wants to convey the information about the existence of a located object in the reference object, the existence ‘yǒu’ sentence is the right choice. On the other hand, if the located object is definite, and if the speaker’s focus is on the located object or if he is concerned with its whereabouts, then the locative ‘zài’ sentence will answer his purpose. The identifying ‘shì’ sentence will be used when the existence of a located object in a certain reference object is evident to the hearer, and the speaker’s concern is to identify the located object for the hearer. Hence, we see that the word order in the three constructions is governed by the functional principle of providing known or given information before introducing new information, which is the Principle of End-Focus.

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

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1,435 questions
1,732 answers
21 comments
11,677 users