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Subject: Post-verbal manner adverbial position in Mandarin
Question: I am beginning to learn Mandarin and, having learnt the rule that
modifiers precede heads, I am a bit puzzled by the fact that whereas
APs, PPs, clauses followed by ''de'', and higher adverbials do follow it
strictly, manner adverbials do not precede verbs. Furthermore, there
seems to exist an adjacency requirement (between the verb and the
adverbial) that forbids an object after a transitive verb when a manner
adverbial is present. For example, as far as I know, ''He speaks
Chinese very well'' must be translated as either (1)''ta1 shuo1
zhong1wen2(,?) shuo1 de hen3 hao3'', where adjacency holds at the
expense of verb repetition, or (2) ''ta1 zhong1wen2 shuo1 de hen3
hao3'', where it entails a violation of canonical VO order. Inexplicably,
(3) *''ta1 shuo1 zhong1wen2 de hen3 hao3'', where the canonical VO
order is observed, is considered bad, and so is (4) ''*ta1 hen3 hao3
shuo1 zhong1wen2'', which satisfies both canonical V<O order and
canonical Modifier < Modified order. I wonder WHY a manner adverbial
MUST be post-verbal and strictly verb adjacent in Mandarin
(apparently against universal principles of argument projection). Can
you help me?

Reply: From my moderate knowledge of Chinese, the pattern you give of things one can and can't say sounds right. But since I don't believe that human language is governed by "universal principles", I don't see any room for a "why" question: surely, that is just the way Chinese is?

Geoffrey Sampson

Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
Date: 29-Oct-2012

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