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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 Six: Non-overt Subjects of Chinese Adverbial Clauses: A Government and Binding Approach 191


191 Chapter Six Non-overt Subjects of Chinese Adverbial Clauses: A Government and Binding Approach 6.1 Introduction In this chapter, I will explore the non-overt subjects that occur in Chi- nese adverbial clauses (henceforth CACs). A non-overt subject, by defi- nition, is an empty (or covert, null) category, i.e. a category which has no overt phonetic form, and hence which is inaudible or silent (Radford, 1997: 131). It generally refers to the subject of a finite clause that re- mains unexpressed lexically. A language that allows a subject to be omitted is referred to as a pro-drop language (Haegeman, 1994: 19). Chinese is a pro-drop language (Huang, 1989). Previous pro-drop analy- ses (Cordin, 1980; Belletti, 1982; Hyams, 1983; Åfarli, 1987; Adams, 1987; Philippaki-Warburton, 1987; Kouwenberg, 1990; Koktová, 1992; Joseph, 1994; Modesto, 2000) have concentrated primarily on the ques- tion of the correlation between morphological agreement and pro-drop: languages with rich inflectional agreement can allow for covert sub- jects as the verbs are sufficiently marked morphologically to show the intended subject. However, languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean do not have rich morphology yet they still allow for covert subjects (Ohso, 1976). Setting out to provide a solution for this prob- lem, Huang (1984: 550 ff.) proposes that there may be two separate explanations for pro-drop: whereas pro-drop in Romance languages, such as Italian, may be motivated by rich morphology, pro-drop in lan- guages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean may be motivated by the fact that these are topic-prominent languages...

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