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CONLANG  January 2001, Week 2

CONLANG January 2001, Week 2

Subject:

Re: verbs = nouns?

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Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 9 Jan 2001 22:40:39 -0500

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On Tue, Jan 09, 2001 at 06:47:05PM -0500, DOUGLAS KOLLER wrote:
> From: "H. S. Teoh"
>
> > True, true. But I still find the notion of adjectives in Chinese being a
> > kind of "verb" rather hard to swallow. I guess I'm struggling with what is
> > so "verb-like" about a Chinese adjective? I can't think of a good example
> > that makes sense as both a verb and an adjective?
>
> If you're thinking of the verb as an "action word", then, yes, it doesn't
> make sense; you can't "dark" something. But as a *stative* verb (i.e.: "*be*
> dark"), it works.

*light bulb goes on*

Ahhh! So *that's* what a "stative verb" means. Gah, I must've been not
thinking straight. I've been confusing stative verb with
gerunds/participles in the previous posts. OK, now that I've wrapped my
head around this, I must say, the idea that adjectives are stative verbs
in Chinese no longer sounds quite that foreign to me. I'd still take issue
with the claim that adjectives are always stative verbs; but I guess it
works in most cases.

[snip]
> Again, as in my previous post, isn't "le" limited to verbs? "*Che1 le" (It's
> become a car.) is not possible. "Hei1" could be used as a noun, but it can
> also be used as an adjective, which means it can take on the verbal
> qualities I've just stated. "Che1" is not adjectival (unless you want to
> consider nouns in compound nouns adjectival, and let's not go there), so it
> can't.

Right, OK. I think I understand what you're trying to say now.

[snip]
> > The only
> > restrictions seems to be semantic; so it excludes things like using hong2
> > (red) as a verb since you can't "red" something, although you can cause
> > something to *become* red.
>
> Stative verbs, by definition, are not transitive. Of course you can't "red"
> something, but something can "be red" and thus, with a perfective particle,
> "have become red".

OK, I'll buy that. :-)

> > (I know, bad example 'cos this is valid in
> > English. But I guess it's because in English, the concept of "to become"
> > is implicitly added when "red" is used as a verb; whereas in Chinese, "to
> > become" must be explicit. Chinese is perhaps more literal in such cases?)
>
> If you interchanged "implicit" and "explicit" in this sentence, I would
> agree with you.

? Hmm, I guess I didn't make myself clear... I was just trying to explain
why English lets you "red the car" but Chinese requires you to say "the
car became red". Of course, OTOH, if you're talking about stative verbs
(ie., the state of being red, as opposed to the process of becoming red)
then English doesn't let the car "red(v)", but Chinese lets the "che1
hong2".

[snip]
> Though you distance yourself from it, for the sake of argument, I don't
> think the implicit copula argument washes. If sentences with adjectives had
> explicit copulas, they would behave differently.
>
> Ta1 hen3 gao1. He's tall. (no "be" verb under this theory).

Hmm. Maybe it's just my flawed understanding of Chinese grammar, but I
parse this sentence as topic-comment: i.e., concerning him, [he's] very
tall.

> Ta1 shi4 hen3 gao1 de. Same meaning with different connotations ("be" verb
> allowed)(not a great example)

Yes, in this case, the sentence is emphatic: "He *is* very tall", or "he
*is* a very tall one". The explicit copula simply emphasizes the statement
(similar to Attic Greek, perhaps?) Note that in this sentence the
particle "de" can be dropped, in which case it would be identical to the
previous sentence except for the explicit copula.

> take out the copula, and you get:
>
> *Ta1 hen3 gao1 de.

Hmm. For some reason, this sentence still carries the same meaning to me,
albeit with a slightly different nuance.

> And isn't implicit copula relatively rare in modern Chinese anyway? Back in
> the old days, you juxtaposed two nouns for an X=Y sentence (X,Y). "Shi4",
> originally a demonstrative "this", increasingly got tacked onto the Y (X,
> this Y) and eventually became the modern-day copula. Beyond limited
> phone-speak like "Wo3 Kou1 Dao4guang1." ("This is Douglas.