Chinese adpositions (was: Re: inalienable possession)
|From:||Douglas Koller <laokou@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, November 19, 1998, 4:58|
Christophe Grandsire wrote:
> Chinese derived PREpositions from *verbs* like *to give* as Nik
> recalls and POSTpositions from *nouns* like *upper part* (shang).
> Mandarin does mix pre- and postpositions as Mathias said. I read
> that other languages do the same.
Myself, I find life quantum leaps easier if I continue to think of these
nouns and verbs as nouns and verbs rather than pre- and postpositions
derived from nouns and verbs. That way, two of the great maxims of
Chinese - it's SVO and modifiers precede modifieds - hold up and the
mental gymnastics are reduced.
Zhuozi shang you sanben shu.
Table top has three books
SVO retained, 'table' modifies 'top', 'three' modifies 'book' -- happy,
happy, happy. Much easier for me than: "Okay, now when 'you' has an
existential meaning, the subject goes *after* the verb, making it VS
just 'cuz, and the postpositional phrase moves to the front of the
sentence just 'cuz.
Zhuozi shang you sanben shu.
Table on there are three books
which, with a little reshuffling, looks like something we're familiar
and comfortable with. (In fact, as I recall in Chin 101 days, we often
saw stuff like:
zai...shang: prep. "on" (making it look like Chinese actually has
Or why think of "give" as a preposition? What's the difference in
sentence structure between:
Wo bang ni xi panzi. SVOVO
I help you wash dishes.
('I'll help you do the dishes' or perhaps 'I'll do the dishes for you
(because your arm is broken)')
Wo kan ni xi panzi. SVOVO
I watch you wash dishes (you go ahead, I'll just sit here and watch).
Wo gei ni xi panzi. SVOVO
I give you wash dishes
('I'll do the dishes for you (because you've already done enough, you're
tired, it's Mother's Day, etc...))?
Sure it *translates* into English as "for", but the price you pay for
saying that it *means* "for" or that it's a preposition is that instead
of SVOVO, you have: S(prep. phrase)VO (prep. and post. [actually
circum.] phrases go before the verb...weeeeell except they sometimes go
after, here, here, here, and here).
These are certainly not the best examples and I can only speak for
myself, but I found that sticking with this mindset -- and I did for
many years -- had me running into sentences that took mental backflips
to decipher or which seemed like yet more capricious exceptions. SVO and
modifiers precede modifieds (more rigorously than English - this is key)
makes things make more sense -- to me. (An added bennie - this way,
>I don't think that any languages
>mix pre- and postpositions, except for a few formulaic forms (like
>English "thereof", or Latin "mecum").still holds, at least as far as Mandarin is concerned).
Reminds me of the example Matt brought up a while back. Finnish, wasn't
it? Use the accusative to mark the direct object, except use the
partitive here, here, here,....and during months with an 'r'. Rather
than: use the partitive to mark the direct object, except use the
accusative here. Period. End of story.
I'll opt for the simpler paradigm any time.