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laowhiner

Questions regarding DeFrancis' Beginning Chinese Reader

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laowhiner

Hello, I've run into a few sentences that I don't totally understand. I was hoping this was the forum to come to for a bit of help! Questions 1 and 2 relate to the same grammatical/construction issue. Question 3/4 relate to another one. 

 

1. 那兩本書是什麽書?是什麽人的?是不是高先生的?有人説,那兩本書是高先生的。 

 

My translation: What type of books are those two? Who owns them? A person says those two books are Mr. Gao's. 

 

I bolded the part that confuses me, and the part of my translation that I suspect is wrong. 

 

I am wondering if my confusion is due to the language being a bit stilted (this is lesson 9, so only 90 characters have been introduced -- maybe it's confusing because he is trying to make interesting sentences with very few words available), outdated (the DeFrancis series was last revised in the late 70s), or if I just don't get it. 

 

2. 嗎先生說: “那二十多本書是什麽書?是不是都是你的?” 我説:“不是的。 都是天先生的。 就有兩本是我的。“

 

My translation: Mr. Ma said:" What type of books are those twenty or so books? Are they all yours? I said: "No. They are all Mr. Tian's. Only two are mine."

 

 

3. 你那本中文書多少錢?

 

My translation: How much does that book of yours cost.  

 

Question: Why is there no 的 following 你? It feels like the na4 is just thrown in there randomly. I haven't seen any examples of this usage in my admittedly brief googling or skimming through my grammar text. 

 

4. 高先生是中國人。 他會説英國話, 也會說日本話。 他有很多中文書,英文書,還有不少日文書。 中文書,文言文的,白話文的他都有。 我這兩本英文小説就是高先生的。 

 

Mr. Gao is Chinese. He speaks English and also speaks Japanese. He has many Chinese, English, and Japanese literature books. With respect to Chinese literature, he has both classical chinese and vernacular books. My two English literature novels are.... only Mr. Gao's wtf?**

 

I totally don't get the last sentence. 

 

I don't want to spam this place asking for help all of the time, so maybe now would be a good time to ask: where's a good place to go to get a Chinese tutor for written language online? I know of italki (spoken). Maybe lang8? Input on this would be good as well. 

 

Any help received is much appreciated. I just got back into Chinese after a 10 year absence, and I'm having a lot of fun despite running into a few sentences like these where the basic grammar eludes me. 

 

Thank you!

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curry

For question 1, I think your translation is generally correct. I would translate it more as, "What books are those two books? Whose are they?" but I think that your translation is also correct for these sentences.

For question 2, your translation is similarly appropriate, but keep in mind that 二十多本书 can only refer to over 20 books, unlike the English "twenty or so books."

For question 3, I'm not sure of the grammatical answer, but it is a common speech pattern to omit the 的 in this case. You can keep it and say "你的那本书“ as well, though. I can't find an explanation in the grammar book I have on hand right now, but it is commonly said this way.

For question 4, the 就 in this sentence has a different meaning from "only." Keep in mind that 就 is a word with many different meanings in Chinese and that these meanings are often difficult to translate (at least smoothly) into English. I believe the 就 here serves a purpose of confirmation or affirmation, but I find this use of 就 the hardest to translate to English.

I hope that this helps, and that native speakers and other users can elaborate on these points.

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somethingfunny

This would be so much easier if they just used 谁.

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roddy

"I don't want to spam this place asking for help all of the time"

That's not spam, that's CONTENT. Free, user-generated content. As long as you're not asking trivial and repetitive questions, and there's a bit of evidence you've thought about the answer yourself, we're VERY unlikely to complain about anyone asking for help. We're the helpiest forum you've ever run into. 

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stapler

All your interpretations are correct. What specifically is causing you trouble? You didn't really say... Just remember that Chinese and English don't map onto each other perfectly. Each language expresses things in different ways. Part of learning Chinese is getting use to the different ways of expressing information. There is no correct translation. Translation is matter of preference. But you are understanding the meaning being expressed correctly, so you've done well.

 

1. 那兩本書是什麽書?是什麽人的

Literally: Those two books are what [kind] of book? Is what person's [book]?

2. 那二十多本書是什麽書

Literally: Those 20 or more books are what [kind] of book?

 

The point here is that 什麼 is a pronoun (代詞) that stand for all sorts of things. 什麼dog "what dog?" ---  什麼tree "what tree?" --- 是什麼dog的?" "what dog's?" --- and a bit more advanced "什麼dog都是 "all (what) dogs are this".

Though this feels weird to you now, with exposure and practice it'll feel very intuitive. I assure you nothing weird is going on here.

 

 

3. 你那本中文書多少錢?

Literally: You there Chinese books (your Chinese books that are there) cost how much?

 

This type of phrase is extremely common in spoken Chinese. You could add a 的 in there. It'd have the same meaning. Consider it as two different ways of saying the same thing. And this is a good time to point out that there's heaps of stuff in spoken Chinese that is extremely basic and common but not covered in Chinese textbooks.

 

 

4. 我這兩本英文小説就是高先生的。

Literally: My these two English novels are actually Mr Gao's

 

As above, you could add a 的 here. But when using personal pronouns spoken Chinese often omits it.

就 has heaps of usages. HEAPS. So much so that it's difficult to give it a simple definition. You'll learn how it operates intuitively with exposure. Context can really help you decipher what it's trying to say (in fact context in Chinese is much more important than in English). But for now you should understand this 就 as coming with 是. That is, as "就是“. Again this is an EXTREMELY common phrase in spoken Chinese and means "actually is", "just is", "exactly", "simply", and in some cases "even if" or "even".

 

Looking at it now, I can actually see why DeFrancis is so good. These phrases that cause you trouble "就是” and “我那本書” sound just like real and high frequency Chinese to me, and also sound like something that wouldn't be in many textbooks!

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laowhiner

Thanks all for your comments -- you've clarified how it should be translated or given me confidence in my understanding. 

 

I was a little thrown off by the pronoun followed by 這 or 那 because I don't think I'd ever seen it before, and it feels a bit redundant. Why not just say 你笨中文書多少錢? I guess adding a 這 or 那 creates a difference between How much are your books and How much are these/those books of yours

 

I had never heard of  什麽人的 used instead of 誰的 or 什麽書 instead of 什麽種的書. 

 

roddy -- I appreciate the welcome, but I have a tendency to ask a million questions when I'm learning something new, so I still think I better get myself a tutor at some point. I won't be shy about posting in here, though.

 

off topic: with respect to DeFrancis, I'm glad to hear the language is relatively natural/high frequency stuff. I bought the entire series sans character texts for 9 bucks when a local language school was selling all of its old material for 1 dollar a book. Probably the best deal I've ever gotten on books. 

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somethingfunny

"Why not just say 你笨中文書多少錢?"

 

I'm afraid this doesn't sound very natural at all to me.  I'd go so far as to say that it's probably grammatically incorrect.  If you want to get rid of the 那 or 这 then the 本 has to go a well.  As in, 你的中文书多少钱?But then obviously you lose all specificity and could be talking about any Chinese book, rather than this Chinese book or that Chinese book.  Grammatically speaking, I couldn't tell you why this is, although I'd guess it's related to the role of 本 as a measure word.

 

You're completely right with "a difference between How much are your books and How much are these/those books of yours? " and if you think about it, which are you more likely to say in conversation?  I'd wager nine out of ten times it's the latter.

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歐博思

Agree with #7 it sounds unnatural.

 

Excerpt from Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington's excellent 2004 Chinese grammar book "Chinese:A Comprehensive Grammar":

 

(Page 7)

 

In a sentence with an action verb, whether transitive or intransitive, all preverbal
unmarked nouns (being given information) are of definite reference whereas
all post-verbal unmarked nouns (new information) are generally of indefinite
reference.

 

So thus, 中文书 before the predicate and without 这/那本 is of definite reference to some known Chinese book(s) of "yours". The issue then is still on singular/plural,  context becomes most important, and adding words clarifies meaning: 你这本中文书多少钱 or 你的中文书(collection)(一共)多少钱?For clarification, 中文书 by itself could also mean just one book, it doesn't have to be many Chinese books.

 

 

edit: 你本中文书多少钱 almost sounds like creative swearing in the vein of '个' in 你个笨蛋 or 妈了个鼻.

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laowhiner

Yeah, I had a bit of a brain fart there. I meant to write “你的中文書多少錢.”

 

I had seen 你的中文書多少錢 and “這本書多少錢” before but I had never seen “你這本書多少錢。” 

 

Again, thank you for the help. 

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laowhiner

I don't know whether I should make a new thread or continue to use this one. I'll stick to this one for now. As usual, the bold bits are where I'm very confused. 

 

Lesson 10

 

RESOLVED

A: 賣多少錢一本? How much are you selling that notebook for? 

B: 兩塊六毛四。 還要買什麼?要是買本子、刀子、什麼的我們也有$2.64. Do you want to buy anything else? If you buy a notebook and knife and so forth we also have. 

A: 我不買。

 

The yaoshi seems to go nowhere. There are enumerative commas, so I'm assuming all of the items are linked together. The general sense I get is that the shopkeeper is basically saying "do you want to buy any of the other stuff we have" but the pattern is weird to me. 

 

Lesson 11

 

馬先生想要寫一本中國人口。 Mr. Ma would like to write a book/paper on Chinese population. 

 

This just sounds weird, but maybe my translation is fine and I'm just weirded out by the context or lack thereof. 

 

Lesson 14

 

1. RESOLVED 他在家裡看書呢。 He's in his house reading. 

 

Why is there a 頭 after the 家裡?

 

Also, does the ne mean it's a continuing action here? 

 

2. RESOLVED 一個中國小學生在日本、美國都看見了地下車。他心裡想:“我們中國有地下車,美國日本也有。A Chinese elementary school student in Japan and one in America both saw subways. He thought to himself: "We have subways in China. American and Japan also have subways."

 

First, is 地下車 a super outdated word for subway? I've always heard 地鐵。 

 

Second, how is my translation -- is this a single Chinese student who visited both countries, observed the subways in each, and remarked China has them too? Or are these two separate kids? I'm very confused. 

 

3. RESOLVED 我家在一個小城裡頭。這裡的人口不多,買賣也少,雖然成小人少,可是學校不少。 大學、中學、小學都有。 My home is in a small city. There aren't many people and there also aren't many businesses/business. Although this is a small city with few people, there are many schools. University, high school, and elementary school are all there. 

 

 

雖然成小人少 Is this saying "although small city, few people"? 

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laowhiner

One more. I think I understand it enough to recognize the irony of me not understanding it all. 

 

你看書不要看一兩個字。 要看上下文。When you read don't read each word. You need to see/read the context. 

 

一兩個字 = one or two words? A couple words? 

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Wurstmann

 

要是買本子、刀子、什麼的我們也有

 

If you want to buy [...], we have those, too.

 

 

A Chinese elementary school student in Japan and one in America both saw subways.

 

There is only one student.

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McKennon

Thanks for steering me here laowhiner. I will try my hand at some of your questions, with the proviso that I am not fully confident.

 

賣多少錢一本?  How much do you want for one copy?

要是買本子、刀子、什麼的我們也有。If you want to buy a notebook, knife, or something similar, we have them too.  Oops-- I see Wurstman already handled that one.

 

他在家裡看書呢. He is (still) in the house reading.

Ne, when not used as a query, is a bit tricky. Here I am pretty sure it emphasizes that the action is ongoing.

 

雖然成小人少  Although the city is small and the people few,

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roddy

The Lesson 11 one does look odd to me. Anyone else?

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laowhiner

Roddy, here is the complete paragraph if that helps: 

 

中國的人口很多,比英美兩國的人口多的多。 馬先生想要寫一本中國人口。 

 

Oh, and for the other people who may be using this book, it's from lesson 12, narrative 7 (I mislabeled it). 

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wibr

中國人口 is the name of the book he wants to write... it's one of those sentences that sound like they come from an elderly person, not too strange and quite common for the DeFrancis readers (source: Taiwanese native speaker)

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stapler

Lesson 11 sounds odd to me as well. But I wouldn't say it's incorrect or something that isn't used. I can imagine a Chinese native speaker saying 寫一本中國人口. But also like #16, it sounds like something from 'older' Mandarin (once you start reading Mandarin from the 1930s you'll realise how much the languages turn-of-phrase has changed. Just like English's). I'd be interested to know how a native speaker 'feels' about this sentence.

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889

If nothing else, this shows the importance of punctuation sometimes in Chinese no less than English:

 

中國的人口很多,比英美兩國的人口多的多。 馬先生想要寫一本《中國人口》。

 

In speech, I suppose you'd pause a bit before the title and then clearly pronounce each character separately to highlight it's a title, "zhong-guo-ren-kou," just as in pronouncing names.

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roddy

I can also see it in a kind of list... They're all writing books. Mr Li is writing one about Chinese geography, Mr Chen is writing one about China's economy, and Mr Ma....

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laowhiner

hahah, I am a fool. DeFrancis underlined 中國人口 so I should've recognized it was the name of a book. You guys figured it out, though. 

 

wibr, I've used a couple of your posts already. Thanks for this: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49790-defrancis-readers-vocabulary-lists-chinese-only-traditional/

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