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

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In Chinese, the notion of a goal is explicitly marked by various resultative complements, while attainment of a goal is expressed by the grammatical perfective aspect ‘le’. However, if the context indicates that an event already took place, then the RVC signals not only the happening of the event but also the attainment of the goal of the event. In such a case the perfective ‘le’ becomes optional and can be omitted since its function of indicating completion of the event is taken over by the RVC. Here are some examples taken from modern literary works:

1a. 他把小说编成剧本。

Tā bǎ xiǎoshuō biān chéng jùběn

(He adapted the novel into a play.)

1b. 他收起床上的收音机,穿上衣服,走到门口。

Tā shōuqǐ chuángshàng de shōuyīnjī, chuān shàng yīfu, zǒu dào ménkǒu.

(He put aside the radio on the bed, put on his clothes, and walked to the door.)

1c. 她闭起眼睛,睫毛上凝出两颗泪珠。

Tā bì qǐ yǎnjing, jiémáo shàng níng chū liǎng kē lèizhū.

(She closed her eyes, and on her eyelashes two teardrops appeared.)

In the sentences of (6), each RVC is transitive, and followed by a definite NP. So they all describe specific events that took place before a certain reference time. All the contexts imply implementation of the events in question. RVC describes bounded events, and bounded events that took place in the past imply attainment of the goals. Hence the perfective ‘le’ is omitted in the above sentences. The point we are making here is that in the context implying or denoting the past, the event described by an RVC is realized and the result that is bound up with the event is achieved, thus the function of the perfective ‘le’ signaling attainment of the goal is fulfilled, therefore its presence is rendered optional. This accounts for the possible omission of the perfective ‘le’ after an RVC in a past context.

[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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