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Making Sense of Grammar
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Why is the sentence *他把一本書買了 ungrammatical?
asked Mar 14, 2018 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by admin (23,690 points)
edited Apr 26, 2018 by admin

1 Answer

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One of the major features of the b˘a (把) construction is that it does not allow the nominal after b˘a to be non-specific. Following Tsao’s (1987) hypothesis that b˘a (把) is a topic marker that is correlated to shared information of the speaker and hearer at the moment of speech, the ungrammatical sentence 他把一本書買了 (t¯a b˘a y`ı-bˇen sh¯u m˘ai le) can then be explained in terms of the general property of a non-specific NP that typically refers to an entity that is not already shared by the speaker/hearer. Thus, it is practically impossible to use the b˘a (把) sentence to indicate a change of state involving something that does not exist in a given discourse.

However, if the bare noun 書 (sh¯u/ book) in the sentence 他把書買了 (t¯a b˘a sh¯u m˘ai le/ He bought that book.) is interpreted as definite like the one marked by a demonstrative in the sentence 他把那本書買了 (t¯a b˘a n`a-bˇen sh¯u m˘ai le/ He bought that book.), the b˘a (把) sentence becomes grammatically acceptable.

Reference: Chinese: a linguistic introduction by Chao Fen Sun

answered Mar 14, 2018 by admin (23,690 points)
edited Apr 26, 2018 by admin
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