City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Dec 1, 2021 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by M (4,830 points) | 450 views

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There are certain more prevalent semantic relations between the constituents of nominal compounds, which are listed below (N1 will stand for the first noun in the compound, and N2 for the second):

1. N1 denotes the place where N2 is located: 床单, 田鼠

2. N1 denotes the place where N2 is applied: 唇膏, 指甲油

3. N2 is used for N1: 炮弹, 布告板

4. N2 denotes a unit of N1: 政府机关

5. N2 denotes a piece of equipment used in a sport N1: 乒乓球, 网球拍

6. N2 denotes a protective device against N1: 雨帽, 太阳眼镜

7. N2 is caused by N1: 水痕, 油迹

8. N2 denotes a container for N1: 酒杯, 奶瓶

9. N1 and N2 are parallel: 花木, 家乡

10. N2 denotes a product of N1: 蜂蜜, 鸡蛋

11. N2 is made of N1: 草鞋, 纸老虎

12. N2 denotes a place where N1 is sold: 饭馆, 菜场

13. N2 denotes a disease of N1: 肺病, 肠炎

14. N1 denotes the time for N2: 晨雾, 冬夜

15. N1 is the source of energy of N2: 电灯, 风车

16. N1 is a metaphorical description of N2: 龙船, 鬼脸

17. N2 is a component of N1: 鸡毛, 飞机尾巴

18. N2 is a source of N1: 水源, 煤矿

19. N2 is an employee or an officer of N1: 银行总裁, 公司经理

20. N1 denotes a proper name for N2, which may be a location, an organization, an institution, or a structure: 北京政府, 上海路

21. N2 denotes a person who sells or delivers N1: 盐商, 水果小贩

The above twenty-one semantic relations between the noun components of nominal compounds should help student understand the more commonly used nominal compounds.


Li, C. N., & Thompson, S. A. (1989). Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar (Vol. 3). Univ of California Press.

answered Dec 1, 2021 by M (4,830 points)

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