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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Conceptual or cognitive mechanisms adopted by different languages are different since they are formed in different cultures. Now let’s see how the Chinese language conceptualizes aspectual opposition: the perfective and imperfective. Tobin (1993) holds that the speakers of a language, when they talk about situations in the world, adopt two perspectives, either focusing on the result of a situation, or on its process. This dichotomous distinction between ‘result’ and ‘process’ is related to the speakers’ perceptions and experiences of events in the world. These two alternative ways of perceiving situations in the objective world, when reflected in language, give rise to the two fundamental ways of viewing situations: either emphasizing the (ongoing) process involved in the action, state, or event, or alternatively, from the viewpoint of the result (outcome, endpoint, consequence, completion, destination, etc) (Tobin, 1993: 15). Hence, Tobin proposes to study aspect in English from the viewpoint of Result vs. Process. He insists that in the category of verbal aspect, the traditional concepts of ‘perfective’ versus ‘imperfective’ or ‘complete’ versus ‘incomplete’ events can be better encoded in the notion of Result versus Process. Tobin further maintains that between the opposed concepts of Process and Result, the feature of Result is to be selected as the marked feature, because it involves a more complex cognitive process: a situation must not be viewed in a partial or immediate manner, but must be viewed in a holistic way which necessarily includes its endpoint or Result; while the feature of Process is to be taken as the neutral or unmarked form, it is the more flexible, neutral and open ended of the two, thus allowing any and all kinds of perceptions of actions, states and events.

[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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