LINGUIST List 16.1044
Tue Apr 05 2005
Diss: Morphology: Chung: 'Mandarin Compound Verbs ...'
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Mandarin Compound Verbs
Message 1: Mandarin Compound Verbs
From: Karen Chung <karchungntu.edu.tw>
Subject: Mandarin Compound Verbs
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Institution: Leiden University
Program: Department of Comparative Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004
Author: Karen Steffen Chung
Dissertation Title: Mandarin Compound Verbs
Dissertation URL: http://ccms.ntu.edu.tw/~karchung/dissertation/dissertationpub.htm
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (CHN)
Frederik H .H. Kortlandt
This is a study of the structure and properties of compound verbs in Mandarin
Chinese. The Mandarin lexicon has not been widely studied in the way that
Mandarin syntax has, perhaps because of a popular notion that compounds are a
kind of 'black box', in which 'lexicalization' is explanation enough for the way
the components of compounds are put together. In fact, equivalents of many of
the same features that typify Mandarin syntax, such as instrumental, aspectual,
and passive constructions, are to be found on the lexical level as well.
By excluding separable structures such as Verb-Object phrases and resultative
and directional constructions, we are able to establish, first, that verbs, like
nouns, are invariably right-headed, i.e. modifiers always precede what they
modify; and also that compound verbs with relatively few exceptions are disyllabic.
We divide compound verbs into subordinate, coordinate, embedded, and other
miscellaneous compound verb types, based on the contextual part of speech of the
component morphemes and their relationship with each other.
Subordinate compound verbs are found to exhibit an extensive system of verbal
prefixation, contradicting the popular idea that there are few examples of
affixation in Mandarin. Different relative position in a coordinate compound
verb sometimes distinguishes different senses of the same morpheme. Included
among embedded compound verbs we find lexical aspectual, passive, and causative
structures. Aspectual matrix verbs in initial position are found to express
intentioned, purposeful action, in contrast to complements of resultative
constructions, which indicate a natural outcome of an action. Many of the
compound verb types in the 'other types' category, such as resultative compounds
and transitive VO compounds, mirror other structural types; a few are foreign
While most of the examples given in this study are established lexical items,
new analogical formations continue to be created.
In short, separability serves as a clear criterion of what is and is not a
compound verb in Mandarin. And in general, Mandarin compound verbs are found to
strictly follow rules very similar to those of Mandarin syntax, with word order
the most important guiding principle.
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