Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Base-Generated or Movement-Derived: Antecedent in the Processing of the Chinese OSV Topic Sentence 1

Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Base-Generated or Movement-Derived: Antecedent in the Processing of the Chinese OSV Topic Sentence 1

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

1.Introduction and Background

1.1Chinese Topic Structures

Chinese has been recognized as a topic- prominent language, in contrast to English, which is claimed to be subject-prominent (Li & Thompson 1976, 1981, p.15; Huang 1984a, 1984b). Li and Thompson (1981, p.95) state that in order to have a firm grasp of the topic- comment structure in Mandarin, it is important for one to understand the openness of the relationship between the topic and the comment. As long as the comment expresses something about the topic in the perception of the speaker and the hearer, the sentence will be meaningful.

(1) ... A(Li & Thompson, 1981, p. 96)

Mian wo zui xihuan chi la de.

noodle I most like eat spicy DE

' Noodles, I like to eat spicy ones the best. '

(2) ... To (Li & Thompson, 1981, p. 96)

Nei ben shu chuban- le.

that CL book publish- LE

' That book, (someone) has published it. '

(3) ... (Li & Thompson, 1981, p. 96)

Zhei jian shi ni bu neng guang mafan yi ge ren.

this CL matter you not can only bother one CL person

' This matter, you can ' t deal with it by bothering only one person. '

(4) ...(Li & Thompson, 1981, p. 96)

Nei chang huo xingkui xiaofangdui lai de kuai.

that CL fire fortunately fire- brigade come DE fast

' (As for) that fire, fortunately the fire brigade came fast. '

It can be noticed that in a simple sentence with one predicate, sometimes the topic bears a theta- selectional relationship to the verb, like in (1) and (2): the sentence appears to have OSV (or OV) structure. Sometimes the topic is outside of the theta- grid of the verb, like in (3) and (4). Lambrecht (1994, p.118) referred to the distinction between these two types of topics as topics which are arguments, i.e., which are syntactically and semantically integrated into the predicate- argument structure of a clause, and topics which are only loosely associated with a proposition and whose relation to the proposition is a matter of pragmatic construal.

It has widely been accepted that in the latter situation, the topic is base- generated, but disagreement remains with regard to the derivation of the topic in the former situation, OSV structure.

Li & Thompson (1976) indicated that all topics in Chinese are base - generated by proposing that the notion of topic in Chinese is as basic as that of subject in general grammar description, and that the topic in Chinese cannot be viewed as derived by movement from some argument position in the sentence. They pointed out, " an important characteristic of the topic in Chinese is that it is independent of the verb and needs not to be an argument of a predicative constituent in the sentences". This framework- setting opinion concerning the function of topics is aligned with Chafe's (1976, p.50) statement that a topic sets a spatial, temporal, or individual framework within which the main predication holds. This perspective is followed by Xu & Langendoen (1985), Xu (1986), Cole (1987), C.- R. Huang (1991), Tsao (1990), and Xu & Liu (1998), among others, and is also closely related to another typological distinction that claims Chinese grammar to be parataxis, in contrast to hypotaxis, represented by English grammar (Nida, 1966; Wang, 1984, p. 468-472).

Generally speaking, parataxis makes use of semantic connection and favors short, simple sentences, with the use of coordinating rather than subordinating conjunctions (Fish, 2012, p. 62), while hypotaxis is the grammatical arrangement of functionally similar but "unequal" constructs, with syntactic devices. Subordination is a commonly used method. That is also part of the reason why Chinese grammar is said to exhibit typological features shared by sign languages and young creole languages (Haiman, 1985; Tai 2008). Pan (2003) further compared Chinese sentences to bamboo, in that information is laid out linearly, and referred to English sentences as tree - like, with more deeply embedded hierarchical structures. …

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