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asked Aug 15 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 29 views

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How to use 差一点儿‘chāyīdiǎnr’ (almost)?

The meaning of result is so fused into the verb compound that it is an indispensable part semantically. This point can be borne out if we compare an RVC with an Accomplishment verb phrase with respect to their behavior to the adverb ‘chāyīdiǎnr’ (almost). It has been observed that an Accomplishment verb phrase, which normally consists of an Activity verb and a quantified object (like ‘xiě yī fēng xìn’ (write one letter)), is ambiguous with the adverb ‘chāyīdiǎnr’ (almost), for the adverb can refer either to the result, or to the process, as in:

1. 我差一点儿给他写了一封信。

Wǒ chāyīdiǎnr gěi tā xiě le yī fēng xìn.

(I almost wrote him a letter.)

‘xiě yī fēng xìn’ (write a letter) is an Accomplishment verb phrase that consists of a process of writing and an endpoint or goal denoted by the count NP ‘yī fēng xìn’ (a letter). Sentence (1) may represent two situations. In one, ‘I proceeded through the process of writing, but never reached the endpoint of finish ing it’, namely ‘I wrote and almost finished the letter’. In another ‘I never even wrote the letter’, and the goal or endpoint of finishing it is irrelevant, namely, ‘I almost wrote, no less finished it’. The possibility of the two interpretations can be confirmed by the acceptability of (2):

2a. 我差一点儿给他写了一封信, 可是总是没写。

Wǒ chāyīdiǎnr gěi tā xiě le yī fēngxìn, kěshì zǒngshì méi xiě.

(I almost wrote him a letter, but I never wrote it at all.)

2b. 我差一点儿给他写了一封信, 可是总是没写完。

Wǒ chāyīdiǎnr gěi tā xiě le yī fēngxìn, kěshì zǒngshì méi xiěwán.

(I almost wrote him a letter, but I never finished it.)

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.

answered Aug 15 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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