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(NPPLC) Chapter #6 - Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush


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This thread is for the discussion of chapter six in A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer.

Please keep in mind the ground rules posted in the first lesson's thread.

For general discussion and a schedule for the study group, please see the proposal thread.


I will not comment now, as I haven't even looked at this lesson yet. Will post later in week.

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Meng Lelan,

I recommend you take a look at the review that just precedes Chapter 6. Rouzer covers the important grammar points there and much of the vocabulary, so it would be a good way to see what you are expected to know. In that way, Chapter 6 is a fine place to start :).

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I didn't have anything intelligent to contribute last week, but I'm still reading along! I returned my library loan of Rouzer and ordered my own copy online. It should be here in time for next weeks lesson. Until then...加油 you guys!

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This week introduces the first grammatical construction that really surprises me: the 也 business.

How do y'all parse the "AB也" and "A、是B也" patterns?

I'm thinking of the first as ( (A) (B) 也 ) and the latter as a topic-comment form with the former construction as the comment: ( A ( (是) (B) 也 ) ).

But the fact that 也 comes at the end is.. shocking. I wonder if there are other examples in Classical. (Does 乎 count?)

[sorry, no time to draw diagrams for the parse trees. Or rather -- no time to import them into the forum. But, laziness is the mother of invention. So, I'm in the market for a clear and concise way to write out parse trees as ASCII in a single line, like I tried above.]

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Meng Lelan

How do y'all parse the "AB也" and "A、是B也" patterns?

也 expresses equivalence. 身我也 would mean that 身 means or is equivalent to "I". "myself".

乎 has two uses. 1. a final particle showing a question or exclamation. 2. a substitute for 于/於.

It doesn't seem to have the very same function as 也

Oh I am loving this Rouzer text. I wish there were a Rouzer type of text for the Analects, Book of Songs, and Three Kingdoms.

heh this 也 business doesn't surprise me. When I was reading 孔乙己 way back in 1980 before I even knew about classical Chinese this story was making fun of how the guy peppered his speech with 之乎者也, so when I first opened the Chinese version of the Analects, sure enough lots of 之乎者也 in there.

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I agree, but what is still unclear to me is: what is the role of 也 in those sentences? What is its part of speech? I guess we can call it a particle, but then where is the sentence's verb?

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So I have been having trouble with 之 in this lesson. I think it appears in this passage as "to go" sometimes (according to the definition of 之 in lesson 2). I need to go back and review the text and make sure I figure out the patterns for each phrase that has 之. For example,

有以解之則可, 無以解之則死。

I have always been uncomfortable with 則 even in modern Chinese, and I am somewhat confused as to why it is in both clauses in the sentence.

I had some other things I thought I'd bring us as well, mostly to make sure my understanding is correct.


I am thinking that the 中 in this sentence means "amongst", as in "commanded amongst the army.

This appears to be the pronoun for "Master". Does it have any sort of connotation to it, such as respect or denigration? I am wondering because it would appear that Gong Lu is just a soldier, so I would think the Viscount would tend to talk down to Gong Lu.

On another note, I'm looking forward to the break next week to try and catch up. I have been reading along, but I stopped doing the exercises, and I think that has been one of the reasons I am finding the lessons more and more difficult.

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For the 之-related questions, I think it translates as 'it' in this sentence:

"If you have a way of explaining it, then it's ok. If you don't have a way of explaining it, then you die."

Where 'it' refers to Gong Lu's laughter.

In this case, 則 seems to smoothly translate as 'then'.

As for usage of 子,it's a good question. Let keep our eyes peeled for usage of second person pronoun correlating with social rank...

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The construction AB也 is a topic-comment structure as mentioned above. This is an extremely common construction in classical Chinese, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to get used to it. Fuller calls it a nominalizing sentence (text in italics below all comes from Lesson 1 of An Introduction to Literary Chinese):

Nominal sentences are fundamentally statements of identity. The sentence A, B asserts that A is a type of B:

宋,小國也 Sòng
a small state.

 [Chén] Zhòngzǐ
of an eminent clan of Qí

 Things being unequal
their nature

 [One] without a father and without a ruler – this
a wild animal.

In these identity statements, the second category—the noun phrase in the comment—tends to be more general than the first category—the noun phrase in the topic. There are many small states: Sòng is one of them. Qí has many men from clans with a tradition of service to the state: Chén Zhòngzǐ is one of them. "Things" have many aspects to their nature, and inequality is one of them. These assertions of identity place an object (the topic) into a larger context and situate it.

You sometimes see the construction expanded into A者B也. Here, the 者 clearly marks the topic, while of course the 也 marks the comment. Sometimes it isn't so clear, but you'll get the hang of it. 'B' can of course also be a verb. I don't have Rouzer here in Taiwan (except in PDF form and I'm too lazy to look for it right now :mrgreen: ), so I don't the sentence you're talking about, but hopefully this helps with understanding the grammar.

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You are completely right about the meaning of 之 as a direct object pronoun. I don't know why, but I completely overlooked that when I was looking back to the definitions provided in Chapter 2. The core text itself makes a lot more sense now, especially the 則 that I was having trouble understanding.

I believe this lesson demonstrates the three uses of 之 as described in Chapter 2.

1. 之 indicating relationships between noun phrases: "During the time of the mulberry harvest"


2. 之 as a direct object pronoun: "it", "her" and "him", respectively.

有以解之則可, 無以解之則死

3. 之 as a verb indicating 'to go': "My neighbor with his wife together went to the field"


This has been a very demonstrative lesson for me and I am starting to build some confidence now. I am one of those who always has to understand where things come and be able to produce it myself. Though I trust Rouzer to make great translations, if I cannot produce something of similar meaning (though most likely not as eloquently worded), then I get all mixed up.

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  • 2 years later...

Been busy last couple of weeks but I'm back, although still very 2 years late.


I had been working through the vocab, then the commentary and exercises and finally translating the passage.  I would then re-write all the exercises and translation in another book but I found this last step was really slowing me down and cancelling out any additional review benefits I got from it.


I really enjoyed this lesson, particularly finally getting to the "AB也" construct which for me seems to be the kind of quintessential, esoteric grammar of classical chinese that you always see and have no idea what it means.  I've read other explanations before and been completely lost but found Rouzer's explanation fantastically simple and clear.  One draw back is that now whenever I read a sentence which uses this I pretty much translate it as a "to be" verb displaced to the end of the sentence and therefore can't help reading it in a classical chinese version yoda imitation voice.  


In the practice I was pretty hit and miss with when to include or not include both 之 and 所 but I don't think this is a huge problem as, while translating from English to Chinese is obviously a great learning exercise, I'm not planning on using my new skills to make accurate translations into classical Chinese.  I am, however, also surprised by the 3rd use of 之 given by DrWatson to mean "to go". 


Apart from this, no big problems, although Viscount Jian of Zhao doesn't sound like much fun... "If you can explain your joke, that's OK, if you can't explain it, you die".  Then the knight explains it and the Viscount neither laughs, nor kills anyone but instead goes into some depressing speech about losing the war and disbanding his army. 

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  • 4 months later...

I found getting to grips with the many 之's in this lesson more difficult than the 也. But overall this was probably the easiest lesson yet! I was really glad I that had pretty much no trouble understanding the passage on first reading. The previous chapters have done a really good job preparing me for the later texts!


The biggest problem I had was the same as you somethingfunny: I was pretty sketchy with the 之's and 所's in the last set of exercises. But like you I'm not too fussed if I can't translate into 文言文. I'm happy just to be able to understand it! Unto the next lesson !

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  • 10 months later...

There was one sentence in lesson 6 that I found difficult and got wrong: 當桑之時,臣鄰家夫與妻俱之田。


The main problem was that I struggled to interpret 之 as the equivalent of the modern 的, which made no sense at all. And yet, Rouzer tells in lesson 2, p. 13, that 之 can mean "to go" and that "it is quite typical for readers to overlook it when it occurs (it occurs for the first time in lesson 6...)".  Haha! I am that "typical" learner.


My second problem was how to parse 臣鄰家夫與妻俱之田 .  As I understand it after peaking at Rouzer's translation, 臣鄰家 could be considered either as the topic or the "place" where the rest of the sentence is happening, or as a determinant of 夫與妻, i.e. either, "[in a neighbouring family of mine], the husband and the wife together had gone to the fields", or "The husband and the wife [of a neighbouring family of mine] together had gone to the fields".


The third problem is that I had interpreted 當桑之時 as "When I [added by me] was in the mulberry fields...". It made sense, but Rouzer's solution is more accurate:  At the time of the mulberry-leaf harvest...": I hadn't noticed that 桑 can mean either the tree or the fact of harvesting its leaves. It was pointless to suppose a 臣 was missing.

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