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Bhas_Ku_Go

Sentence length and punctuation in Chinese (newspaper) articles

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Bhas_Ku_Go

Hi all,

 

Recently I stumbled across the following very long sentence from a Taiwanese newspaper article (reprinted in the textbook 讀報學華語三):

 

 

阿美族豐年祭成為盛夏花蓮旅遊頗受遊客歡迎的文化活動,行政院原住民委員會和花蓮縣政府為豐富阿美族年祭活動內涵,今年特別將原住民的藝術和工藝創作納入豐年祭中,讓遊客不僅參與體驗熱鬧優美的阿美族歌舞,同時欣賞原住民的藝術創作美感,因而規劃了八月十八日到廿日三天在美崙田徑場的'千禧二〇〇〇原住民豐年展藝系列'活動,讓民眾深入了解原住民文化與生活。

Now, it took me a while to figure out that 豐富 is used as a verb here and that 內涵 has the meaning of 內容 (I think), but what I actually want to express is my astonishment about this sort of "monster sentences" that I come across more often in written Chinese. I guess there is no point in arguing across languages that one set of rules for punctuation is absolutely better suited for expressing meaning more clearly than another, but I do have the impression that commas and full stops are often used in Chinese in ways that actually thwart better understanding. Most of this sentiment can probably be attributed to me being a non-native who actually does rely on punctuation for understanding; in contrast to most natives who probably don't care much about punctuation anyway and for whom understanding in most cases is just given in an instant.

 

Not sure if this amounts to any question but I thought I'd share my thoughts here with you guys:-)

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Lanchong

I would actually say that your sentence is nicely punctuated. Try reading it aloud at a newsreader's pace. The commas are placed where it is natural to take a breather, and they break up the different thoughts so the article is easy to understand.

I would suggest listening to daily news podcasts, like the one NHK produces. The rhythm of their speech is very distinctive, and it's the same as used in your article.

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Messidor

阿美族豐年祭成為盛夏花蓮旅遊頗受遊客歡迎的文化活動,行政院原住民委員會和花蓮縣政府為豐富阿美族年祭活動內涵,今年特別將原住民的藝術和工藝創作納入豐年祭中,讓遊客不僅參與體驗熱鬧優美的阿美族歌舞,同時欣賞原住民的藝術創作美感,因而規劃了八月十八日到廿日三天在美崙田徑場的'千禧二〇〇〇原住民豐年展藝系列'活動,讓民眾深入了解原住民文化與生活。

 

I think some sentences are quite problematic if this piece of text is an intact paragraph from newspaper.

阿美族豐年祭成為盛夏時節花蓮旅遊頗受遊客歡迎的文化活動……并因此規劃了八月十八日到廿日三天在美崙田徑場的'千禧二〇〇〇原住民豐年展藝系列'活動……

 

Maybe the analysis of sentence structure will help with awfully long sentences:

1)行政院原住民委員會和花蓮縣政府 this is the noun phrase

2) a.將[原住民的藝術和工藝創作]納入[豐年祭中];b.讓遊客[不僅參與體驗熱鬧優美的阿美族歌舞同時欣賞原住民的藝術創作美感];c.規劃了……活動;d.讓民眾[深入了解原住民文化與生活] these are four complex verb phrases, a and c are of the same level in the semantic structure, b and d are of the same semantic level lower than the former two.

Or put it in a simpler way, 1) is the subject, 2) are four parts led by the subject. It's common that a single subject leads several (long) phrases in Chinese, without words such as which, that, who etc.

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Bhas_Ku_Go

Lanchong, I agree in the sentence quoted by me the commas are well put. Yet I still think there should be a full stop between the first two parts of the sentence since they have different subjects. I know that this is probably my foreign 語感 speaking and that there is no such rule in Chinese but I still cannot help it. Also, as Messidor pointed out, Chinese doesn't subordinate clauses and also often leaves out conjunctions - the only thing left then is a comma. That's something I am aware of. Another thing though is that commas are sometimes used to separate the subject of a clause from the predicate and that I find very confusing (I'm not talking about topic-comment constructions). I have no example at hand but newspaper articles are full of that sort comma usage. 

 

Messidor, thanks for this. I think I understand the structure of the sentence. As to your corrections, why would you substitute 並因此 for 因而?I always thought of both of them meaning roughly the same in the sense of 'therefore, as a result' etc.

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Messidor

@Bhas_Ku_Go

In my opinion, the phrase, clause or sentence led by 因而 clings more closely to the former clauses / sentences. In the original text, the two phrases led by 因此 are preceded by two extremely long phrases (the a, b and c, d in my former post), the reader or listener may find it uncomfortable or difficult to attribute so many long and complex phrases to a single subject out there. So I used 并因此(并且+因此) to show a "longer pause" between a+b and c+d and also to indicate the semantic structure (c should be emphasized lest it's treated like b). But 并因此 is only optional here

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L-F-J

Ugh, worse than this is when they put a full stop in the middle of a sentence where there should be a comma. It totally disrupts the reading and understanding for a moment until you realize the next "sentence" should just be the predicate. 

 

I come across this often in novels and think... do Chinese not understand the difference between a comma and a full stop the way I do, or what's going on here? It's too common to be a typo.

 

Really frustrating to be honest... Imagine being a translator dealing with Chinese texts that often omit the subject and randomly throw in commas and full stops where they don't seem to fit... or have no punctuation in the middle whatsoever.  :wall

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