City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Aug 15 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 38 views

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We claim that the RVC induces the perfective aspectual meaning in certain contexts; on the other hand, we must be clear that the RVC is not the perfective aspect; it is only a verb compound describing a situation of an Accomplishment or a bounded situation. To illustrate this point, consider, for instance, the RVC ‘gānsǐ’ (die of dehydration), it describes a bounded situation, since it has a well-defined terminal point ‘sǐ’ (die). But the sentence ‘Méiyǒu shuǐ, zhèxiē zhíwù jiù huì gānsǐ’ (Without water, these plants will die of dehydration) is not a bounded situation, because it refers to a general tendency for plants to die. The tendency can go on indefinitely, irrespective of the number of plants that will have completed their act of dying of dehydration. Consider another sentence, ‘Zhèxiē zhíwù kuàiyào gānsǐ le’ (These plants are going to die of dehydration), the inchoative ‘le’, in conjunction with the adverbs ‘kuàiyào’ (soon will) gives the sentence a reading close to the English progressive aspect that refers to the preliminary stage of the event. It does not express completion of the action of ‘dying’ or realization of the goal, though the notion of the endpoint or goal is invariably present as a part of the lexical meaning of the RVC. Whereas ‘Zhèxiē zhíwù gānsǐ le’ (These plants died of dehydration), the perfective reading of the sentence, which is contributed by the perfective aspect ‘le’, is evident and undeniable. Therefore, we say that, though the RVC induces the notion of result, it does not express achievement of the goal or attainment of the result. Instead, it is the grammatical aspect— the perfective ‘le’ of the sentence that signifies attainment of the goal or realization of the result.

[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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