City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Aug 5 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points)
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In the RVC, V1 must be an Activity verb, transitive or intransitive. This restriction on V1 is due to the fact that when an RVC is transitive, it functions as a causative verb that will cause a change of state in the direct object of the verb, for instance, ‘dǎpò bēizi’ (break a cup), ‘dǎsǎo gānjìng jiàoshì ’ (clean the classroom). In these cases, the direct objects ‘bēizi’ (cup) and ‘jiàoshì’ (classroom) both undergo a change of state because of the actions or the events denoted by V1 ‘dǎ’ (break) and ‘dǎsǎo’ (clean). A causative event consists of two subevents: a causing event which involves a causer or doer like ‘Dìdi dǎpò le bēizi’ (The younger brother broke the cup), and a resulting event which describes a change of state like ‘Bēizi pò le’ (The cup is broken). A causing event is normally denoted by an Activity verb. Therefore, in the RVC, V1 must be an Activity verb; this will guarantee that V1 has the agentive subject. If V1 is an intransitive Activity verb, it describes an event in which the subject referent instigates the event and experiences the change of state brought about by the event. Then the subject has the semantic role of Experiencer, like ‘Tā pǎolèi le’ (He ran and as a result he got tired). By contrast, Achievement verbs cannot act as V1, because they do not denote actions, but an instant change of state. This follows that they do not have an agentive subject. Lacking the agentive subject accounts for their disqualification from being V1. Empirical data confirms the validity of the observation. As shown:

1a. *老师忘丢了眼镜。

Lǎoshī wàng diū le yǎnjìng.

(Int: The teacher forgot, and as a result he lost his glasses.)

1b. *那个病人死哭了他的太太。

Nàge bìngrén sǐ kū le tā de tàitai.

(Int: That patient died, and as a result his wife cried.)

These two sentences are both ungrammatical, because the VPs in question seem to be in the construction of the RVC, however, V1 ‘wàng’ (forget) and ‘sǐ’ (die) are Achievement verbs, which signal a change of state beyond the control of the subject referents, they do not describe actions volitionally conducted by the subject referents. Hence, they cannot act as V1 in the construction of the RVC.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Aug 5 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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