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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).
and elsewhere:
> 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 circumpositions)). 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)') or Wo kan ni xi panzi. SVOVO I watch you wash dishes (you go ahead, I'll just sit here and watch). and 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, Nik's assertion:
>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. Kou