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Chinese Syntactic Grammar

Functional and Conceptual Principles


Jian Kang Loar

Chinese Syntactic Grammar: Functional and Conceptual Principles is unique in that it discusses the organizational principles of Chinese syntactic structures in terms of conceptual and functional principles, which are iconic and hence are easy to understand and apply. The organizational principles mainly comprise the three Chinese conceptual principles of Temporal Sequence, Temporal Scope, and Whole-Before-Part (Tai, 1985) and the two functional principles of Communicative Dynamism and the Principle of Topic-End Focus. By analyzing the semantic roles of each clause element, Chinese Syntactic Grammar reveals that the conceptual principles play a crucial role in organizing ideas and bringing units (such as subject, verb, and object) together to form grammatical sequences, which manifest S (A) V O (C), which is the basic Chinese word order. The functional principles control and govern variations of the basic sentence structure, which are motivated to facilitate effective communication and achieve specific communicative goals, thus generating several special structures, including the Bá/Bèi/null Bèi sentences, etc. The variant forms are motivated to achieve special communicative goals, and to facilitate effective communication.
Another feature of the book is that it focuses on reasons, rather than merely on a description of rules. The language is lucid, and the arguments are cogent. The scope and depth of the investigation make the volume one of the most thorough and relatively complete pedagogical reference books. Chinese Syntactic Grammar can serve as a textbook for training professional CFL teachers. It is a must-read book for Mandarin Chinese teachers as a handy manual, also for intermediate and advanced Chinese learners if they want to have deeper insight into the nature of the Chinese language. Linguists who are interested in cognitive grammar and specialists across many fields including education, psychology, communication, and information science will find the book enlightening and interesting.


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Chapter Seven - The Topic-Comment Structure of the Chinese Language 369


• C H A P T E R S E V E N • The Topic-Comment Structure of the Chinese Language Chapter Seven - Topic-Comment Structure 7.1. Background Knowledge In this chapter we will deal with a striking feature of the Chinese sentence struc- ture—topic-prominence. In addition to the grammatical relations of subject and object, the notion of topic plays a crucial role in explaining the structure of many ordinary sentences. Chao says “…that the grammatical meaning of subject and predicate is topic and comment rather than actor and action”, and “The subject is literally the subject matter to talk about, and the predicate is what the speaker comments on when a subject is presented” (Chao, 1968: 69). Because of the im- portance of topic in Chinese grammar, Chinese is considered a topic-prominent language. This topic-prominent nature of Chinese sentences distinguishes Chi- nese from many other languages. To know about the Chinese language, we need to have a good understanding and grasp of the topic-comment structure. The crucial and significant role played by the concept of topic in Chinese sentence structure merits the devotion of a whole chapter to the discussion of the issue. In our discussion we will deal with topic as a grammatical entity distinct from sub- ject; we hold that topic and subject are two types of notions (Li and Thompson, 1981). This chapter mainly consists of three parts: The first part provides a discus- sion about the definition of topic, and some basic notions related to topic,...

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