A Profile of the Mandarin Noun Phrases
University of Cologne
This empirical study investigates complex Mandarin noun phrases (NP) in actual spoken discourse, with special emphasis on the adnominal possessive phrases and the classifier phrases.
In investigating the structure of the Mandarin noun phrase, the author finds that there are two highly interesting phenomena which merit special attention: the functional behavior of the particle de in adnominal phrases and the use of classifiers. The particle de is observed to play a crucial role in the syntactic configuration of the Mandarin NP: apart from connecting two elements together, it can occur with all the possible modifying elements and makes explicit the modification relationship such an element bears to the head noun in a complex NP. The use of the classifier turns out to be the most conspicuous typological feature of Mandarin. In view of their significance, the phenomena involving the particle de and the classifier will be scrutinized in chapters two and three, respectively.
With regard to the adnominal possessive construction, there is a general consensus in Chinese linguistics about the linking function of the particle de. Given that the presence of this particle in adnominal constructions is not obligatory, some analyses thus hint at a possible correlation between the omission/non-use of the particle de and inalienbility (cf. Dragunov 1960; Chao 1968; Li and Thompson 1981), possible factors triggering the presence or absence of the particle de in actual spoken discourse are, however, never surveyed. It is Chappell and Thompson (1992) who first inquire into this question. They conduct a survey on a corpus consisting of both spoken and written texts and arrive at the conclusion that the use or omission of the particle de is determined by a number of convergent factors. Based on their findings, Liu will explore further the relevant factors determining the use or omission of the particle de in a pure spoken discourse. This is the main task of chapter two. In addition, issues concerning to what extent the notion of “inalienability” is relevant to the adnominal possessive phrase, as well as how this notion is expressed in Mandarin, will also be investigated in this chapter.
Due to the isolating morphological character of Mandarin, grammatical categories such as gender and case are irrelevant for the NP. Issues on number, by contrast, turn out to be of most importance and relevance. Indeed it is precisely the unique behavior of the NP in relation to number expression which is characteristic of the Mandarin NP, i.e., the use of the classifier. A survey of this phenomenon will be the main task of chapter three. In order to express the notion of quantification, Mandarin Chinese draws on the use of classifiers. In Chinese linguistics, however, classifiers are not defined clearly enough. Traditionally, these are construed as an obligatory syntactic constituent occurring between a numeral and a head noun in a quantifying construction. However, not only classifiers but also measures can occur in the same syntactic slot. Moreover, it is very often the case that either no clear distinction between classifiers and measures is drawn (cf. Li and Thompson 1981), or this category is simply construed as a classifier-measure dichotomy (cf. Dragunov 1960), or subclasses of this category are established solely on semantic grounds (cf. Chao 1968)
ISBN 9783895867286. LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 53. 300pp. 2003.