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realmayo

Chinese really has no adjectives?

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realmayo

Leeya, ok, that's interesting. An additional question: so can you say: "这个很国际。" as a sentence?

EDIT: HashiriKata: yes I didn't mean to repost exactly the same thing! I was in the process of tightening up the question, when you guys both replied

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leeyah

It doesn't sound natural, I'd say there has to be something preceding 很国际:mrgreen::

这个国际XX一点也不国际。

今年的国际节很国际。

But usually 国际化 is used, eg.:

这个城市很国际化。

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realmayo

Okay, well three people I've come across online, John DeFrancis, Julian Wheatley, and Archie Barnes, find it convenient to talk about "stative verbs", while the majority of people don't. I'm not allowed to wonder why?

In terms of introducing unnecessary complication, I think it's a question of telling native speakers of English to be ready either for

adjectives that function as "our" verbs

verbs that function as "our" adjectives.

I'm not sure either approach is more complicated than the other.

As for the "attributive" category, looking in Routledge Comprehensive Grammar (which believes in adjectives) it has a category for "attributive-only adjectives" which "differentiate rather than describe".

I'll enter some of the examples given in Routledge, of these "attributive-only adjectives", and next to them type what John DeFrancis calls them. There's a bit of variety :help

不断 adverb

长途 noun

人工 attributive

妃色 noun

红色 n. red color ... but attributive: revolutionary

真正 attributive

慢性 attributive

头等 attributive/noun

现代 noun/attributive

初步 noun

中号 noun

正式 stative verb

忘我 stative verb

无私 stative verb

有益 verb-object

人造 attributive

国营 attributive

But look, as I said much earlier in the thread, I'm not looking for funky definitions per se, but to see whether such alternative definitions make it easier for me to learn Chinese, ie "you can never use X with a stative verb" versus just saying "there are some adjectives where you use X, and some where you don't".

In that situation, native speakers and advanced/experienced students can, of course, answer "it just doesn't feel right to use that adjective with X" but grammar is about explaining why things work and why they don't? And don't people study grammar to help them find out what works and what doesn't?

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leeyah

OK, you're right.

I "jumped" into this thread because I was intrigued by your question and wanted to provide some common examples of the use of language. I am a philologist by vocation and a polyglot, but I must admit I've always hated linguistic theory, or any kind of theory in fact. But then, I have this habit of doing things in the unorthodox way, it's just my style, and it may not work for others.

I see language as a living thing, so the way the majority of learners approach language learning, looking for strict rules to follow, reminds me a bit too much of maths. (But then again, it's not as if I knew much of maths really)

But since you are looking for ways to improve your learning technique, my advice is: look, listen & learn, and eventually the rules of any grammar will unfold themselves naturally before you. You are a human being, so live the language, don't waste too much time on 'language mechanics'.

Unless, of course, your exams include grammatical theory, then I must apologize for leading you astray :oops::wink:

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jiangping

This is basically a linguistics question, and I don't think anyone can really give you a definitive answer because linguistics in China is a relatively new discipline and stuff like this is still being argued over. There's a similar debate over coverbs vs. prepositions.

"Attributives" are just adjectives that have to come before a noun. I.e. You can say 他很高, but not 他很男, because 男 is an attributive. Instead you could say 他是男的, which is still okay because it's modifying the 的.

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leeyah

Chinese is considered a very logical language, so you can often hear learners say it is an easy language to learn, since basically it has no grammar and it's basic vocabulary appears (on the surface) as very simple: one-character one-meaning & new words (构词) are formed by combining two or more characters to form a word with a new meaning (which in the initial stages of learning seems very simple) but we all know that this is not true, so better not go into this right now. However:

This is basically a linguistics question, and I don't think anyone can really give you a definitive answer because linguistics in China is a relatively new discipline and stuff like this is still being argued over.

Exactly! According to one of the 语言知识类 textbooks we used in advanced class, Chinese grammar still resists or better say refuses all the attempts at comparison with Western grammatical patterns.

汉语是一种缺少词形变化的语言,词与词组合时词形不会发生变化。汉语表示语法关系的手段主要是词序和虚词。

It's the way words behave in relationship with each other, the word order that matters in Chinese, not any fixed grammatical patterns or rules as seen in Indoeuropean languages.

...正因为汉语没有词形变化,各种词类没有明确的形态标记,所以有时不同词类之间界限不太明确。像汉语中的动词和形容词就很不好区分,有时同一个词既可以是动词,也可以使形容词。如

“繁荣“,可以说“经济繁荣“,”市场繁荣“,当形容词用;也可以说“繁荣市场“,”繁荣文化艺术事业“,带上宾语当动词用。再如,“丰富“,可以说“物质很丰富“,“内容很丰富“,当形容词;也可以说“丰富业余生活“,“丰富市场“,当动词用。...缺少词形变化的汉语,表示语法关系的手段就不是词形变化,而主要靠语序和虚词。

This is a peculiarity of Chinese which can create difficulties to people whose minds are accustomed to clear-cut Indoeuropean grammatical patterns and why you can often hear learners of Chinese complain that they are unable to discern where one word ends and another begins. Very often the problem is the relationship of 字 and 词/词组. Other times it's the position of a simple word within the sentence.

So your question: Chinese really has no adjectives? is really very difficult to answer, even for experienced learners.

You can say 他很高, but not 他很男, because 男 is an attributive.

Right, 男 is a word meaning male human being (because Chinese has another word for male animals). 男 is a noun which can be used as an attributive before other nouns to indicate that something is or belongs to the category of being male human, but that still doesn't make it a proper adjective and you can not say: 他很男. He is very masculine/very macho. You say: 他很男子气。 And you don't see 男 stand on its own in sentences like "He is a man" The logic of Chinese says: 他是男的。 他是男子。他是男人。

This is the problem with defining Chinese grammar, some words may seem to function the same as in Indoeuropean languages but when it comes to classification, they are actually mutually incomparable, as there's no 词形变化 to help us identify a word according to its grammatical category. IMO the theories you've come across are very daring attempts by Western linguists, and nothing more. :mrgreen:

stative verbs

adjectives that function as "our" verbs

verbs that function as "our" adjectives

Right. A simple illustration: unlike 男, there are 'true' adjectives like 高,难,美丽 etc, so when you see a sentence like : 那座山高不高? it looks as if 高 is a verb, right? Compare it with: 山很高. and suddenly 高 behaves like a regular adjective again. But then nobody seems to have thought of the fact that perhaps it's the verb that's missing in these sentences and not the adjective? :wink:

These are the things that create all the confusion in learners mind trying to analyze Chinese from the standpoint of Western linguistics and actually only make things more complicated.

Perhaps we should better wait until the Chinese come up with their linguistic theories & that's why I said look, listen & learn, try to get used to the peculiarities of Chinese patterns, otherwise you will never see through its logic and end up forever thinking like a foreigner.

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chrix
Exactly! According to one of the 语言知识类 textbooks we used in advanced class, Chinese grammar still resists or better say refuses all the attempts at comparison with Western grammatical patterns.

Unfortunately I don't have much time right now to go into detail, but let me tell you that modern linguistics has moved beyond the Eurocentric model. From that point of view, Chinese fits in very well, and is not as exotic as a language as some people think it is (rather it's the Standard Average European languages that show some peculiar features).

A good point to start would be the first chapter of Li & Thompson, where they talk about the typological characteristics of Chinese, like topic-prominence and what-not.

As far as the adjective issue goes: a lot could be said about this, but at the heart of the issue is that adjectives have been associated with two basic functions, the attributive and the predicative one. In linguistic typology it is now common to differentiate between

- languages with adjectives that are similar to nouns

- languages with adjectives that are similar to verbs

- languages with adjectives that are similar to neither

- languages without adjectives

So Chinese adjectives - not a problem really :mrgreen:

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agimcomas

You can call them "adjectives" or "static verbs", it is, in my opinion, the same thing.

Korean teaching literature calls adjectives "static verbs" because, in Korean, both verbs and adjectives can be conjugated, and the conjugation rules and patterns are identical. So in this case it is quite useful to view adjectives as being verbs.

As to what an older post said, from doggiedoggie, I think he is right. You must understand your own language to understand other languages (a famous linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt said this).

The English verb "to be" is indeed ambiguous, since it has many uses and meanings. Chinese, or for that matter, Spanish, uses different verbs for different meanings of the English verb "to be" (i.e. "ser" and "estar").

Cheers!:D

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realmayo
it is, in my opinion, the same thing.

Recently, while doing some work for the intermediate HSK, I've found the distinction between stative verb and attributive quite relevant, simply in terms of whether you can put 的 after it or not.

(As for the english verb "to be" being ambiguous, the word "ambiguous" may have a specific linguistic definition, I don't know, but it's hard to think of English sentences where the verb "to be" really is ambiguous!)

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agimcomas

Realmayo,

In a determined phrase, I guess the use of the verb to"to be" cannot be ambiguous. However, if you take the verb "to be" as it is used in the English language as a whole, then it cannot be given an absolute meaning, therefore I say it is ambiguous.

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realmayo

agicomas, I really don't think your use of the word "ambiguous" is the standard one, surely ambiguous means something has more than one interpretation at any one time, and is therefore open to misinterpretation?

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agimcomas

Realmayo,

Fair enough. I believe I would be more correct if I said that the verb "to be" has multiple definitions.

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realmayo

yeah, sorry, the only reason I was being a bit of a tw*t about this word is because it came up earlier in the context of precision of terms and knowing one's own language. it's odd that there isn't an actual word (or perhaps there is?) that means what we mean here.

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HashiriKata
it's hard to think of English sentences where the verb "to be" really is ambiguous!
"To be or not to be, that's the question." is quite ambiguous. It gets less ambiguous only after we've been told/taught what it's supposed to mean.

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realmayo

well, I guess you could say it's unclear, if you only had the single line on its own. But ambiguous?

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HashiriKata

Well, you originally said "think of English sentences", and so I gave you an English sentence. Anyway, nothing serious. :)

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realmayo

perhaps I should go read this, shut me up for a bit :mrgreen:

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Hofmann

Of course there are adjectives (in my opinion:tong)!

黃昏 yellow dusk. "黃" is an adjective.

昏黃 dusk yellows. "黃" is a stative verb.

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realmayo
黃昏 yellow dusk. "黃" is an adjective.

昏黃 dusk yellows. "黃" is a stative verb.

No one said that a character like 黃 cannot function as an adjective.

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anonymoose
No one said that a character like 黃 cannot function as an adjective.

English doesn't have adjectives either. "Adjectives" is just a name that we give to words that function as adjectives. :conf

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