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 (4,230 points) | 28 views

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Mandarin Chinese is considered to be a topic-prominent language. Two semantic characteristics are given here: 1) Topics set a framework in naming what the sentence is about; 2) Topics must be either definite or generic. For examples:

狗我已经看过了。‘The dog/Dogs (generic) I have already seen.’

那只狗我已经看过了。‘That dog I have already seen.’

*一只狗我已经看过了。‘*A dog I have already seen.’

Two formal properties that topics share are: 1) A topic always occurs in sentence-initial position (unless it is preceded by a connector that links it to the preceding sentence); 2) A topic can be separated from the rest of the sentence (called the comment) by a pause or by one of the pause particles, for example,

那只狗,我已经看过了。‘That dog, I have already seen.’

Reference

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 (4,230 points)

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