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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 Five: A Typology of Adverbial Clauses in Written Chinese 127


127 Chapter Five A Typology of Adverbial Clauses in Written Chinese 5.1 Introduction Studies touching upon the semantic analysis of adverbial clauses to date have largely been concerned with the English language (Quirk et al., 1985: 1045–1123, Thompson and Longacre, 1985; Givón, 1993: 285– 315 and 2001: 330–351; Quintero, 2002), though Chao (1968) and Wang (1995) are notable exceptions which are based on Chinese language data. However, both Chao and Wang chose to impose a relatively coarse categorisation which includes only five semantic classes of adverbial clause, namely temporal clauses, place clauses, conditional clauses, concessive clauses and causal clauses. The information offered by such a relatively coarse set of categories would be rather sparse and unable to fully capture the entire range of variety of semantic roles exhibited by adverbial clauses. For this reason, it is necessary to extend the scope of the semantic analysis of Chinese adverbial clauses and make more re- fined distinctions. As the review in Chapter Two (section has shown to some extent already, Quintero (2002) offers a corpus-informed (LOB Cor- pus) typology of English adverbial clauses within the framework of Functional Grammar (FG): in FG, there are four semantic hierarchies (i.e. Entity Type, Time Dependency, Factuality and Presupposition) that can be used in establishing an exhaustive typology of adverbial subor- dinate clauses. This study initially appears to be a good theoretical frame- work on which to base my typology of Chinese adverbial clauses. How- ever, Quintero’s study is primarily aimed at...

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