Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

A Preliminary Investigation of the Adversity Reading in Archaic WEI Passives

Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

A Preliminary Investigation of the Adversity Reading in Archaic WEI Passives

Article excerpt

Abstract: Problem statement: It is well-known that modern Chinese imposes such a requirement on the subject in the BEI passive, but in fact it does not hold tightly in Modern Chinese. Only 50-75% of passives have the adversity reading on the subject. Approach: One approach to explain this phenomenon is to adopt the view of grammaticalization and trace the semantic change of the morpheme BEI. However, the majority of the passive construction in archaic Chinese is not the BEI passive, but the WEI construction. The Adversity reading in the WEI construction in archaic Chinese is examined as a pilot study in this study. Results: Our research result shows that in the book of Shi Ji, among 50 tokens, 78% of the WEI passive has the adversity reading. Conclusion: This thus indicates that our impression about the adversity reading imposed on passives is not an absolute requirement, no matter in modern or archaic Chinese. On the other hand, the investigation of the WEI...SUO construction indicates that there is a decline of the adversity reading. We therefore conclude that a follow-up study should be carried out to complete the whole picture of the investigation of the adversity reading in Chinese passives.

Key words: The BEI passive, the WEI (...SUO) passive, grammaticalization and language change

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

INTRODUCTION

Unlike passives in English, it is widely assumed that most passives in Chinese impose an adversity reading on the grammatical subject (Hsin, 1990; Liu et al., 2001; Tseng, 2004), as articulated by the authors of a recent textbook for teachers of Chinese as a Second Language, "In modern Mandarin Chinese, BEI constructions are employed mostly when the subject suffers from some damage or feels unhappy. Therefore its usage is very limited" (Liu et al., 2001, p.423) (the original excerpt from Liu et al. (2001) is as follows: "Zai xiandai hanyu Putonghua li,'bei ziju muqian duo yongyu dui zhuyu laishuo shi shousun-de huo bu yukuai-de qingxing, suoyi ta-de shiyong shi bijiao youxian-de" (p. 423)). Hence, examples like (1a) and (1b), with a beneficiary reading on the subject, are considered ungrammatical. In contrast, the example in (2), which has an adversity/malificiary reading, is allowed (However, as pointed out by Liu et al. (2001), if a verbal complement is added after the verb ai ('love') in (3b), this sentence becomes acceptable in Chinese).

(i) Zhangsan bei ta-de xuesheng ai de yao-si. Zhangsan BEI his student love DE want-die 'Zhangsan was loved by his students.'

Hence, it seems that the adding of the complement in BEI constructions may somehow cancel the requirement of the adversity reading on the subject. In the following discussion, the reader will see when examining BEI constructions, we consider both situations with and without the complement to avoid the controversy over this issue.

... (1)

b. *Zhangsan bei ta-de xuesheng ai. Zhangsan BEI his student love 'Zhangsan was loved by his students.'

... (2)

However, this requirement in fact is not fully carried out if one examines the modern Chinese passives in the corpus. For example, according to some recent corpus studies by McEnery et al. (2003); McEnery and Xiao (2005); Xiao et al. (2006); Yang (2006) and Kuo (2010), it has been noticed that the adversity requirement does not hold tightly in Modern Chinese. These studies show that only 50-75% of the BEI passive has the adversity reading on the subject.

In the following discussion, we will first introduce the corpus works of Kuo (2010) and Peyraube (1989) which both address the issue of the adversity reading of the BEI passives. After that, we will point out that we may need to consider another historical factor when we examine the adversity reading change of the BEI passive. That is, in archaic Chinese, the BEI passive is not the only and major passive construction. We then investigate the WEI construction and conclude that in archaic Chinese, the WEI construction, as a major passive representative, also do not have a high percentage of adversity reading imposed on its subject. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.