City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
0 like 0 dislike
36 views
asked Aug 15 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 36 views

1 Answer

0 like 0 dislike
It is true that the RVC cannot be used with the imperfective aspect. Their incompatibility with the imperfective aspect is based on two grounds: First, the RVC is a complex Accomplishment depicting a bounded event. The very notion of boundedness makes it ineligible to be used in the progressive sentence, because the progressive aspect views an event from within, the viewpoint span does not include the initial or final endpoints of the event. Consequently, the imperfective aspect characteristically connects with unbounded situations, or with ‘continuous, habitual and non-resultative actions’, rather than with bounded situations (Frawley, 1992: 299). Second, bounded events are resultative, which means they have built-in goals that they must reach in order to be successfully asserted. The resultative complements focus on the resultant state of the event named by the verb. So the RVC describes events resultatively. Result implies completion of the event and attainment of the goal; these are features of the perfective. In the imperfective, the attainment of goal is not asserted. When imperfective aspects operate on Accomplishment VPs or on bounded situations, they have the effect of hiding the arrival or non-arrival at the goal. For instance:

1a. They are using up the paper.

1b. 我在写(一)封信。

Wǒ zhèng zài xiě yī fēng xìn.

(I am writing a letter.)

‘Use up’ is an English resultative VP, it is used with the progressive aspect in English. In this case, the endpoint of the event named by the resultative VP or by the Accomplishment is hidden or not included within the viewpoint span of the progressive or imperfective aspect. Therefore, sentence (1a) is grammatical in English. The VP in (1b) seems to be an Accomplishment ‘xiě (yī) fēng xìn’ (write a letter), and it is used with the progressive aspect ‘zài’. The sentence is acceptable when the numeral ‘yī’ is read with neutral tone and is optional, because ‘yī’ can have the same function as an indefinite article in English which has generic reading (i.e., to express ‘a kind of’ of thing), rather than indicate the specific number ‘one’, so it does not necessarily have the force of bounding the action involved. This explains why (1b) is acceptable in Chinese.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.
answered Aug 15 by Ariel (34,480 points)

1,435 questions

1,732 answers

21 comments

12,675 users

1,435 questions
1,732 answers
21 comments
12,675 users