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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 Two: General Review 25


25 Chapter Two General Review In this chapter, a definition of the term corpus (section 2.1) and a brief survey of Chinese corpora (section 2.2) will be given. A detailed de- scription of the PFR Chinese Corpus used in this book will also be provided. Section 2.3 of this chapter is concerned with my object of study, adverbial clauses. This section provides a review of the literature on corpus-based accounts of adverbial clauses with a discussion of fea- tures such as the characterisation of adverbial clauses and their syntac- tic/semantic and discourse properties. This review of previous work on adverbial clauses will provide a justification of the focus of this book on the adverbial clause. 2.1 Defining corpus Modern corpora are typically large, finite, collections of language data in machine readable form. Yet a corpus is more than a simple collec- tion of data; rather it is “a large and principled collection of natural texts” (Biber, Conrad and Reppen, 1998: 12). A principled collection is distinct from a haphazard collection of materials; it attempts to rep- resent language in such a way as to control for a range of variables. These variables may be wide ranging, e.g. genre, speaker’s age or con- text/situation of utterances. In attempting to control such variables, most corpus builders appeal to the concepts of sampling and repre- sentativeness. Sampling involves the process of determining how many text samples are required for valid generalisations to be made about the variety of language under examination and what...

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