LINGUIST List 14.188

Mon Jan 20 2003

Qs: Chinese Passive, High School Lingustics Text

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  1. colleenzhou, Chinese Passive
  2. AJDeFaz, text for high school students

Message 1: Chinese Passive

Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2003 18:56:55 +0800
From: colleenzhou <>
Subject: Chinese Passive


I am a PhD student on syntax in Guangdong University of Foreign

I am interested in passivization and my thesis is about the
comparative study on English and Chinese passive constructions. I have
read some articles and theses on Chinese passives, such as James
Huang(1999),Jen Ting(1995,1998),Feng shengli(1997),Shi
Dingxu(1997,2000),and the ones on English Passives, such as Jaeggli
(1986),Robert and Baker, Marker(1989). They have done a great job on
passives in these two languages and even in some other languages.

It seems that the analysis on English passives has been finished
within GB, since Chomsky himself does not say a word about passives in
MP and his later papers, MI, Derivation by Phase. However, there are
still a lot of problems need to be solved.

In Chinese, the typical passive construction is the 'Bei'
construction, and there is no other auxiliary word such as 'be' in
English. For example,

 John bei Tom pian-le.
 'John was cheated by Tom.'

As many linguists argued that 'bei' in Chinese is not equal to 'by' in
English, it has its own charateristics. So I have a lot of questions
to ask.

1.The earlier papers focused their attention only on the suffix '-en'
in the passive, but did not pay much attention to 'be'. Why does
English have an auxiliary word'be' in the passive to assist to make an
active become a passive?

2.Is it language parametric or universal? I know this is a big
question, but I think it is a very important one.

3. I did some research on Chinese passives and found that the function
of 'bei' is a little bit parallel to that of 'be + -en' in English. So
I wonder if it is possible to make some assumptions that the Chinese
'bei' is equal to 'be + -en', instead of 'by'in English?

4. Chinese is a language quite different from English, but we cannot
say it does not obey the principles in Chomsky's GB or MP. So I try to
find the evidence to attest that the Chinese passive is not language
specific. We can find some relationship between it and the English
one. But the key problem is that can we give a satisfied and
comprehensive analysis on the English passive, and is this analysis
universal? Should we make a different analysis on the Chinese passive?

I am not very sure about all the above questions and even some others
I have not posited. I am very eager to hear from your answers and
suggestions on passivization. Thank you very much in advance!

Thank you for taking so much time to read my questions.

yours sincerely,
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Message 2: text for high school students

Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2003 15:31:21 EST
From: AJDeFaz <>
Subject: text for high school students

Can any one recommend a text in beginning linguistics which would be
suitable for motivated high school students? I will post a summary if
replies warrant.

Anthony DeFazio, New York
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