City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Apr 8, 2022 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by YYYYing (220 points) | 252 views

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 For instance, if the source language is English, the head comes first, as opposed to the modifier, but in Chinese, the head is put behind the modifier, since Chinese is discourse-oriented language whereas English is sentence-oriented. We can put the verb, which is the most important part in the sentence, in the end of the sentence in Chinese. 

Elaboration:  Chinese is a discourse-oriented language whereas English is sentence-oriented, and the key information tends to be put near the end in Chinese. With the most important information being put at the end, this may explain the change of position of the verb “讀書” since it is one of the essential elements of the message (SVO). Moreover, in Chinese language, information is usually written in ascending order, like addresses, while it is in descending order in English.For instance, “Mary studied hard in the library this morning.", the word "studied” is the head of this sentence, while the others are used to supplement the information. The adverb (“hard”) follows by the verb, and the location (“in the library”) follows by the adverb. The time (“in the morning”) is usually put at the end of a sentence. While the Chinese translation of this sentence is “瑪麗早上在圖書館認真地讀書”, the supplements are put in different positions. The time (早上 “this morning”), adverb (認真地 “hard”), and location (在圖書館 “the library”) are all put before the verb 讀書 in Chinese. This is different from the typical rule of “Subject + Verb + Adverb + Object + Supplement” in English. Thus, to rearrange the syntax order and make it acceptable, we have to arrange the order accordingly to the syntax rules mentioned above. (Modifiers after verb in English VS Modifiers before verb in Chinese) .

Chinese is a discourse-oriented language whereas English is sentence-oriented, and the key information tends to be put near the end in Chinese. With the most important information being put at the end, this may explain the change of position of the verb “讀書” since it is one of the essential elements of the message (SVO). Moreover, in Chinese language, information is usually written in ascending order, like addresses, while it is in descending order in English. This could explain why the supplements like the time, location, and adverb (“早上在圖書館認真地”) are put before the verb, according to their lesser significance compared to the verb. “瑪麗“ remains in the same position as “Mary” in English because they are both the subject of the sentence, they both take up the role of agent. Therefore, even though the supplement positions are different in Chinese, the order of the main elements (SVO) remains relatively the same. It may be easier for English learner to remember these rules.  

answered Apr 8, 2022 by YYYYing (220 points)
edited Apr 8, 2022 by YYYYing

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