Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Verb-Noun Compounds in Chinese

Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Verb-Noun Compounds in Chinese

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. A recent development in Chinese renders many occurrences of the construction [Adjunct PP + Verb + N[P.sub.2]] into [Verb + N2 + N[P.sub.1]]. A crucial difference between the two constructions is that in the former the verb and its N[P.sub.2] object can be separated. In the latter no separation is permitted, and N[P.sub.2] consists of only its head [N.sub.2]; that is, the verb and [N.sub.2], have formed a V-N COMPOUND. This paper attempts to account for such V-N compounding in Chinese. We suppose that the lexical structure representation of verbs in the Chinese V-N compound is similar to that of denominal verbs (Hale & Keyser 1993b). Thus, the formation of the Chinese V-N compound can be derived most simply by head movement, which is both morphologically driven and constrained by the Minimal Link Condition (Chomsky 1994). *

INTRODUCTION. A recent development in Chinese renders many cases of [Adjunct PP (i.e. P + N[P.sub.1]) + Verb + N[P.sub.2]] into [Verb + [N.sub.2] + N[P.sub.1]], especially when the adjunct PP is locative (Hua 1997, Wang 1997, Xing 1997, Liu 1998a,b, Wang 1998), as shown by 1a-b, 2a-b and 3a-b. (1)

(1) a. women   xiang   Niuyue     qian   ju
       we      to      New York   move   home

[right arrow] b. women   qian   ju     Niuyue (2)
                 we      move   home   New York
                 'We move to New York'

(2) a. ta   zai   Hafu                 zhi      jiao
       he   at    Harvard University   engage   teaching

[right arrow] b. ta   zhi      jiao       Hafu
                 he   engage   teaching   Harvard University
                 "He teaches at Harvard University'

(3) a. Mali   zai   Jianada   liu      xue
       Mary   in    Canada    engage   study

[right arrow] b. Mali   liu      xue     Jianada
                 Mary   engage   study   Canada
                 'Mary studies in Canada'

The crucial difference between the two constructions is that in [Adjunct PP + Verb + N[P.sub.2]] the verb and its N[P.sub.2] object can be separated by an aspect marker, a measure phrase, or a modifier of N[P.sub.2] (Li & Thompson 1981), as in 4a, 5a, and 6a. On the other hand, in [Verb + [N.sub.2] + N[P.sub.1]] no such separation is permitted, and N[P.sub.2] consists of its head noun [N.sub.2] only, as shown in 4b, 5b, and 6b.

(4) a. women   xiang   Niuyue     qian-le    ju
       we      to      New York   move-Asp   home
       'We have moved to New York'

    b. *women   qian-le    ju     Niuyue
       we       move-ASP   home   New York

(5) a. ta   zai   Hafu                 zhi-le       yi    nian   jiao
       he   at    Harvard University   engage-ASP   one   year
       teaching
 'He has taught at Harvard University for one year'

    b. *ta   zhi-le       yi    nian   jiao       Hafu
        he   engage-ASP   one   year   teaching   Harvard University

(6) a. Mali   zai   Jianada   liu-guo      liang ci   xue
       Mary   in    Canada    engage-ASP   two   CL   study
       'Mary has studied in Canada twice'

    b. *Mali   liu-guo      liang   ci   xue     Jianada
       Mary    engage-ASP   two     CL   study   Canada

In sum, the verb and [N.sub.2] in 1b, 2b, and 3b have formed a V-N COMPOUND.

The V-N compound has, in fact, long existed in Chinese (Chao 1968), but until recently very few of them could take an NP object without being treated as ungrammatical or unacceptable (Li & Thompson 1981). By contrast, [[P + N[P.sub.1]] + Verb + N[P.sub.2]] has been regarded as the norm and has been strongly required or preferred (Hua 1997, Chow 2000). Since the 1970s, however, many cases of [[P + N[P.sub.1]] + Verb + N[P.sub.2]] have been transformed into [V-[N.sub.2] + N[P.sub.1]] (Xing 1997, Diao 1998). (3) Now the [V-[N.sub.2] + N[P.sub.1]] construction has become so common that it is no longer treated as ungrammatical or unacceptable but as a legitimate type of predicate structure (Gao 1998, Liu 1998a,b, Wang 1998). …

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