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Adverbial Clauses in Mandarin Chinese

A Corpus-based Study


May Lai-Ying Wong

What are adverbial clauses in Chinese? Do they all have subjects as their counterparts do in English? How do the semantic domains of adverbial clauses interact with the distribution of subjects? How do Chinese corpora help us explore these intriguing questions?
The aim of this study is to demonstrate the usefulness of corpus linguistics as a methodology in grammar studies. A problem-oriented tagging approach has been used to enable the exploration of adverbial clauses in the corpus and to identify eleven semantically based classes of adverbial clauses. While it is a well-known fact that Chinese adverbial clauses (CACs) are overtly marked by a subordinating conjunction, their subjects can be left unexpressed and recovered in the prior discourse. By analysing naturally occurring spoken and written samples from various corpora, the author examines this intriguing phenomenon of overt and non-overt subjects in adverbial clauses.


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Chapter One: Introduction 19


19 Chapter One Introduction 1.1 Corpus-based approach to studying adverbial clauses This book is motivated by the fact that none of the previous analyses of adverbial clauses in Chinese have based their illustrative examples and exposition on extensive corpus evidence. Rather, researchers have typi- cally relied on their own intuitions about language (e.g. Liu et al., 1996; Chu and Chi, 1999), sometimes supplemented by adapting example sentences from influential novels (e.g. Ding et al., 1979). Recent work by Wang (1995, 1998, 1999 and 2002) breaks fresh ground in studying adverbial clauses by adopting a corpus-based ap- proach. She quantitatively analyses the distribution and information structure of four main types of adverbial clause (viz temporal, condi- tional, concessive and causal clauses) in spoken Chinese on the basis of a corpus of six hours worth of naturally occurring face-to-face, two party, and multi-party conversations and call-in broadcasts on local ra- dio and television in Taiwan. However, her studies focus solely on a limited range of adverbial clauses and are largely based on the spoken register of Chinese. Also her spoken corpus is rather small and yields just some 700 adverbial clauses in total. Hence, the novelty of a cor- pus-based study on adverbial clauses in written Chinese as well as an in-depth analysis on the typology of adverbial clauses in Chinese argue for a more thorough quantitative and qualitative account of them in order to discover new insights into their use in written data. Further- more, as far as adverbial clauses are...

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