AUTHOR: Shi, Dingxu
TITLE: Peking Mandarin
SERIES: Languages of the World/Materials 377
PUBLISHER: Lincom GmbH
Keith Goeringer, freelance translator
_Peking Mandarin_ is a descriptive grammar of the variety of
Mandarin spoken in Beijing. _Peking Mandarin_ could serve as a
reference grammar for linguists working with Mandarin, or for those
studying Mandarin, but it also highlights certain aspects in which
Peking Mandarin (henceforth ''PM'') diverges from Modern Standard
Mandarin (MSM). Professor Shi touches upon various aspects of PM
and MSM, including phonetics, various syntactic structures, and
A huge amount of material is packed into this slim (126-page) volume.
Overall, the information is presented clearly, with ample
exemplification and explanation. The main shortcomings of the book
are less than stellar editing, and the myriad frustrations the reader will
encounter in dealing with the lack of different typefaces that seems to
characterize many Lincom publications.
The book opens with a brief overview of the development of PM.
Chapter 1 (pp. 4-18) lays out the sound system of PM. It also
effectively lays out the sound system of MSM, since the two systems
are essentially congruous. This is one of the troublesome aspects of
_Peking Mandarin_ -- while sometimes areas where PM and SMS
diverge are indicated, more often than not, a feature that is described
as characteristic of PM could just as easily be characteristic of MSM.
This is, of course, often the case when describing the relationship that
holds between a dialect and the ''mother'' tongue...but it would be
useful if some mechanism were more regularly incorporated into the
book to indicate when something is truly a dialectal feature, versus
something that holds for MSM as well. (This is done in the section on
the sound system when addressing r-suffixation [pp. 15-16].) The
degree to which r-suffixation is an unambiguous indicator of Peking
Mandarin, vs. a generic Northern dialect (cf. Norman 1988, 144-145),
is open to debate, but particularly for non-native speakers, some
means of differentiating the two would be helpful. Another feature that
could be interesting to highlight is the tone sandhi involving a full tone
followed by a neutral tone -- is the realization of this phenomenon in
PM different from MSM? One striking feature of the volume is the
large number of apparent neutral tones in compounds -- but it is
unclear whether these are truly neutral tones, or if the tone mark was
simply inadvertently omitted. Examples include (ll on p. 44):
fei1fei1shishi 'sturdily fat',
han2han2huhu 'very vague', and
wen3wen3dangdang 'very reliable'.
One other minor quibble is that in the description of the pinyin
transliteration system, no mention is made of the function of the
apostrophe in disambiguating sequences such as [xian] from [xi'an] (a
monomorphemic sequence from a polymorphemic one), or [pingan]
from [ping'an] (indicating where the morpheme boundary is), nor on
the status of the zero initial in such sequences.
Finally, it is interesting to note that Shi gives the phoneme
represented by pinyin [r] the (ASCII) IPA value [z.] -- a voiced retroflex
fricative. This effectively contrasts [sh] and [r] in terms of voice, which
thereby introduces the only such contrast for obstruents in Mandarin.
Norman (140) writes: ''Such a description [of _r_ as the voiced
counterpart of _sh_] is, however, misleading; the Chinese _r_ is
pronounced with less friction than the comparable English fricative,
and acoustically sounds much closer to the usual American
pronunciation of _r_. Moreover, to consider _r_ the voiced
counterpart of _sh_ would be tantamount to recognizing voicing as a
distinctive feature in the phonological system of Chinese, a distinction
which is otherwise unneeded.'' It would thus be interesting to know
whether Shi is making a statement that PM does in fact have a voiced
fricative, in opposition to MSM, or _r_ has come to be accepted as
voiced in MSM as well, despite the effects this has on the symmetry of
the remaining phoneme inventory.
Chapter 2 (pp. 19-70), on words and morphology, is the longest
chapter in the book -- rather interesting, considering that Mandarin is
typically categorized as a morphology-poor language. The chapter
addresses the distinction between morphemes and words, word
formation, nominal morphology, and verbal morphology.
On the question of adjectives, Shi seems to vary in his analysis. On p.
22f, he notes that ''(a)djective phrases in Peking Mandarin can
function as the predicate in a sentence without the help of any verb,''
in addition to functioning as modifiers of a head noun. This would
seem to indicate that the predicative adjective is itself a verb, which is
the analysis most linguists subscribe to, since otherwise one would
have to posit a zero copula of some sort -- even when a verbal
particle is present. This is exemplified in Shi's example 62 (p. 51).
Pin2guor3 hong2le ban4 ge lai2 yue4 le.
Apple red-le half M more month le
'The apples have been red for more than half a month.'
In other places, Shi is less forceful in how he wants to classify
adjectives. On p. 51, he writes: ''...the perfective marker –le is
attached to an adjective, which can function as the head of a
predicate in Peking Mandarin.'' It seems that it would be logical to
take the stance of Li and Thompson (1990: 826-827), who give three
ways in which adjectives in Mandarin behave like verbs (no copula,
negation with the same negative particle as verbs, and the same
relativization structure as verbs), and conclude: ''...it is sensible to
consider quality and property words in Chinese simply as a subclass
of verbs, one which we might call 'adjectival verbs'.''
Overall, the chapter on morphology offers a thorough catalog of what
morphology exists in Peking Mandarin, with repeated indications that
the morphology in question is primarily derivational, not inflectional.
(Shi establishes on the first page of this chapter that Chinese does not
inflect for case, number, or gender: ''Like other dialects of Chinese,
Peking Mandarin is predominantly a non-inflectional language in the
sense that it does not overtly mark agreement, case, or gender.'')
Chapter 3 describes the syntax of phrases and clauses. All in all,
everything is laid out clearly, though there were a couple of points that
raised questions. On p. 91, Shi gives an example of clausal
complements (his 57):
Xing2 la. Bie2 ku1de yan3jing1 dou1 hong2le.
enough part don't cry-DE eyes all red-le
'That's enough. Don't cry so much that your eyes turn red.'
He contrasts this with his 59:
Zhei4 xiao3zi zai3 ren2 zai3de zhen1 hen3.
This rascal cheat people cheat-DE really relentless
'This guy cheats people so relentlessly.'
Shi says (p. 91f) that the main verb in 3, [zai3] 'cheat', is transitive, but
it cannot take an object because of the –de attached to it. Because of
this, the verb must be repeated for the object [ren2] to appear in the
sentence. However, on the same page, Shi says that [yan3jing1] in
(2) is the object of the verb [ku1] 'cry', so the [ku1] should have to be
repeated as well, giving either
(4') *Bie2 ku1 yan3jing1 ku1de dou1 hong2le
(4'') *Bie2 ku1 yan3jing1 ku1de yan3jing1 dou1 hong2le.
I suspect the difference between the two structures is that in (3),
[yan3jing1] is both the object of [ku1] and the subject of [hong2], so no
reiteration is necessary. In (3), [ren2] is the object of the only verb in
the sentence. If the sentence were somewhat changed, a structure
similar to (2) might be feasible:
?Bie2 zai3de ren2 dou1 hen4 ni3.
don't cheat-DE people all hate you
'Don't cheat (people) so much that they all hate you.'
Chapter 4 addresses discourse, and is the shortest chapter in the
volume. Shi states that Mandarin is sometimes considered a
discourse-oriented language, offers some examples of how native
speakers resolve potential ambiguities, and gives a sample of Peking
I have pointed out some theoretical or other issues that brought
questions to mind in this volume. The biggest issue, however, is with
the poor editing. There is some type of corrigendum on almost every
page -- generally they are of little consequence, but sometimes
presumably incorrect tone marks are given, and due to the lack of
differentiation between MSM and PM mentioned above, it is difficult to
know what is truly a typo, and what is a point of divergence for PM. I
will give something of an errata list below, but this is just the tip of the
iceberg. Lincom would do well to improve the editing of these volumes.
p. 1 (Introduction), P 2, line 4, ''...both of which were establish by the
nomadic people...'' --- 'established';
p. 11, P 7, line 3, ''The combinations actually occur are listed in Table
Four'' --- insert [that] after 'combinations';
p. 25, P 4, line 2, ''When a speaker uses the inclusive pronoun
zámen 'we'...'' --- change [zámen] to [zánmen] (while both
pronunciations are possible for this pronoun, no indication is given of
this in the text, and in the chart, only [zán] is given -- if there are
phonetic or stylistic parameters that determine the distribution, it would
be interesting to note);
p. 29, P 4, line 2, ''...other interrogative morpheme are all very
productive in these processes'' --- 'morphemes';
p. 31, p. 1, line 2, ''What usually being referred to as quantitative
pronouns are...'' --- ''What is usually referred to as quantitative
p. 47, P 1, lines 4-5, ''The beir4 'extremely' is (44), for example [...]
while the lao3 'always' in (45) is a adverb...'' --- ''The beir4 'extremely'
in (44) [...] in (45) is an adverb'';
p. 50, P 3, line 1, ''The perfective aspect born by the verb...'' --- ''The
perfective aspect borne by the verb...'';
it is unclear to me whether the [ai4] used on p. 58 is a typo for
[zai4] 'at', or is a dialectal or variant form with which I am unfamiliar:
[Wo3men (z)ai4 da4 cao1chang3 ti1 qiur1] 'We play football at the big
playground' (it is included in the list of ''prepositions'' on p. 69, but I
could not find this meaning in my dictionaries; on p. 79, (19), there is
[ai1] in the same meaning -- but first tone);
p. 63, P 2, line 1, ''Although the functional elements yao4shi4 'if',
yao4shi4 'if not' and dehua4 can convey...'' --- ''Although the functional
elements yao4shi4 'if', yao4bu2shi4 'if not' and dehua4 'if' can
throughout the book, change ''preposition phrase'' to ''prepositional
p. 77, (9a-b), remove 'rats' from English glosses;
p. 81, ff., line 1, 'patter' --- 'pattern';
p. 97. (74), [yi3ing1] --- [yi3jing1] 'already'; p. 98, line 1,
insert 'hundred' between 'one' and 'percent';
p. 104, P4, line 3, 'characteristics' --- 'characters';
p. 105, (101), 'quite-quite-R' --- 'quiet-quiet-R' in interlinear;
p. 108, (109) -- the [na3pa4...ye3] construction is not the one cited as
being used in (109), which should be [bu4guan3...dou1];
p. 112, (122), [...wo3me jiu4 zai4 shang4tou hua2bi1ing] ---
[...wo3men jiu4 zai4 shang4tou hua2bing1];
p. 126, line 2, reunite [n] and [ot] in interlinear;
p. 126, line 12, 'whither' --- 'wither';
p. 126, line 14, 'quite' --- 'quiet';
p. 128, Thompson entry, insert 'the' between 'with' and 'ba'.
Some errors in tone marking include the following, though it is possible
that some of these are dialectal distinctions or variations with which I
am not familiar:
p. 22, P 1, line 6, [hai2liao2] --- [hai3liao2] 'chat broadly and aimlessly';
p. 27, (7b), tones left off of [Wo3] and [yao4];
p. 28, (7d), ibid.;
p. 39, line 11, [ling] --- [ling2];
p. 51, (61), [Dao4 nei4 shi4hou...] --- [Dao4 nei4 shi2hou...];
p. 76, (3), [Zuor2 ma1 gei2le wo3 ji3bai2 ] --- [Zuor2 ma1 gei3le wo3
p. 86, (40), [hai4] --- [hai2];
p. 87, (41), [yixi4ang1] --- [yi4xiang1];
p. 90, (53), [zhu4-jin4lai4le] --- [zhu4-jin4lai2le];
p. 93, (62a), [bu4] --- [bu2];
p. 93, (60'). [shao1-bu4-re4] --- [shao1-bu2-re4]?;
p. 95, (67), [re2] --- [re4];
p. 105, (99), [yi4kuair4] --- [yi2kuair4]?;
p. 108, (110), [ni2] --- [ni3];
p. 111, (118e), [dei] --- [dei3];
p. 116, (3B), [Chi1bu4xia4] --- [Chi1bu2xia4]?;
p. 124, (17A), line 1, [ta] --- [ta1];
p. 124, (17A), line 13, [yi2ci2] --- [yi2ci4];
A few closing remarks that again highlight where some means of
differentiating between PM and MSM would be useful. On p. 53 is a
nice pair of sentences ((69) and (70)) that contrast [zai4] and [cai2],
both meaning '(only) then':
Wo3 ming2tian1 chi1guo wan3fan4 zai4 zou3.
I tomorrow eat-Exp dinner then leave
'Tomorrow I will leave after I have dinner.'
Nei4tian1 lao3ban3 kan4guo bao4gao4 cai2 zou3-de.
That.day boss read-Exp report then leave-Part.
'The boss left that day after he had read the report.'
I have not heard [zai4] used in this sense before, but it is unclear to
me whether this is a dialectal feature, or simply a gap in my
knowledge. (The meaning is given in dictionaries, with no flag that it is
a dialect feature.) I would use [cai2] in both sentences, but wonder if
there is some parameter that motivates the choice of one over the
other -- the time reference, for example, with [zai4] being used for
future reference, and [cai2] for past. This would hold also for the
[zai4] used in (58) on p. 51.
In several places in the book, the tones given for [yinwei] 'because'
are [yin1wei2], whereas my dictionaries (and personal use) reflect
[yin1wei4]. Again, it is not clear if this is a dialectal feature, or a typo.
In closing, _Peking Mandarin_ is an interesting and useful volume that
contains a great deal of information and exemplification. It is a shame
that, due to the poor editing and typeface constraints, this book could
not have been made more reader-friendly. One hopes that these
issues will be taken into consideration for future volumes in this series.
Li, Charles and Sandra Thompson (1990) Chinese. In Comrie,
Bernard, ed. The World's Major Languages. Oxford: Oxford
Norman, Jerry (1988) Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University