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Zbigniew

Understanding Chinese Syntax

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Zbigniew

I was recently attempting to read some articles on the Xinhua News site's "bilingual zone". I've pasted one passage below with the Xinhua translation. I really don't have much experience of reading this sort of material.

 

My main stumbling block was understanding how successive clauses in long sentences fit together. After discussing the following passage with a native speaker I'm really none the wiser about how some of the clauses fit together, e.g. which verbs are best understood as finite verbs, which as participles etc., which clauses are best regarded as main clauses, which subordinate etc. The translator apparently knew the answer to all this, but the native speaker I spoke to couldn't say how or why the translator opted for the translation ultimately chosen.

 

For instance in the sentence below beginning 中国发布了, 中国 is clearly the subject and 发布了 is clearly best regarded as a finite verb with past reference. 发布了governs various noun phrases, starting with 少数民族事业发展规划 and ending at 残疾人事业发展纲要等. How are we then to treat the following 明确 and 采取? Are these to be treated as a finite verbs (whether with or without past reference) too? The translator doesn't seem to see things that way. Why not? And then how is 针对 best regarded/translated?

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

"China has also made special plans to ensure the right to development of ethnic minorities, women, children, the elderly, and the disabled. The plans include those on the development of ethnic minorities, of women, of children, of the elderly, and of the disabled persons, with clear goals and targeted policies for different groups to solve the problems hindering their development, ensuring that they can pursue self-development and enjoy the fruits of reform on an equal basis."

中国还通过制定专项规划落实少数民族、妇女、儿童、老年人、残疾人等群体的发展权。中国发布了少数民族事业发展规划、中国妇女发展纲要、中国儿童发展纲要、老龄事业发展规划和残疾人事业发展纲要等,明确发展目标,采取积极策略措施,针对不同群体发展的重点难点问题,精准发力,使他们能够同步发展,共享改革发展成果。

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889

Write a sentence with the structure of that Chinese sentence on an English school paper and you'll get marked down with a comment "run-on!" penciled in the margin. It's bad English.

 

But it's not bad Chinese. Clauses are stacked more freely in Chinese than English, and you need to keep more an eye on the logical meaning of the text than on grammatical parsing.

 

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Zbigniew

Thanks for your answer, 889.

You say: "Clauses are stacked more freely in Chinese than English, and you need to keep more an eye on the logical meaning of the text than on grammatical parsing."

 

Please could you tell me then what the "logical meaning of the text" is? I cannot get at the logical/literal meaning because I don't understand the relationship between the clauses I have discussed above.

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889

That sentence can be broken into three groups:

 

1. 中国发布了少数民族事业发展规划、中国妇女发展纲要、中国儿童发展纲要、老龄事业发展规划和残疾人事业发展纲要等,

2. 明确发展目标,采取积极策略措施,针对不同群体发展的重点难点问题,精准发力,

3. 使他们能够同步发展,共享改革发展成果.

 

The first group sets out what is being done, the second group sets out how it will be implemented with some forceful wording, and the third sets out what will be achieved.

 

This is a common structure in Chinese, especially this sort of writing. A bit of Googling tells me someone has written a paper on the run-on sentence in Chinese political rhetoric. I can't download it, but perhaps you can, and maybe it will help.

 

Chinese sentences often can be parsed somewhat like English, but sometimes not. Sort of like characters, everything seems run together, and you have to know where the breaks go.

 

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Zbigniew

Thanks for your answer.

I'm sorry but I'm still unclear about the relationship between the clauses I referred to in my original post.

Who or what is the subject of the verbs  明确 ,采取 and 使 ?

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Zbigniew

Thanks for your reply. Things are getting a bit clearer. 

 

What still puzzles me a little is that whilst the action of the verb 发布 is made historic with the enclitic 了, none of the subsequent verbs are, and that the clause beginning 使他们 is simply placed in parallel with the others when the translation above and my understanding of the sentence suggests that it is not a bare 中国 that is the subject of 使 but the cumulative effect of the actions taken by China that have been discussed in the preceding clauses.

 

I appreciate that stringing out long chains of parallel clauses may be de rigeur in this genre of writing, but when some clauses that aren't strictly parallel, as here, are set down as if they were, I can't help thinking that clarity has been sacrificed purely in the interests of maintaining a certain style of writing.

 

I've shown the passage to another native speaker, who is not impressed with the clarity of the writing and agrees that the meaning could have been more clearly expressed by breaking it down into several shorter sentences.

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stapler

"What still puzzles me a little is that whilst the action of the verb 发布 is made historic with the enclitic 了, none of the subsequent verbs are, "

 

It has been announced that they will do the following things. The announcement is done. The development of rights is not done. Hence no 了.

 

"and that the clause beginning 使他们 is simply placed in parallel with the others"

 

The subject is China. Because they've already mentioned "China" so many times, it would be stylistically ugly to use it again here. Furthermore, the subject here should be considered vague and flexible. It could be "we", "the government" or "China". And these are all the same in the collective thinking.

 

The 使 is also a verb just like 针对 and 采取. You could put a subject in front of all of those clauses in the same way you could put one before 使.

 

Often Chinese will leave out the subject when it thinks it is already obvious in places where other languages would still feel it is required (eg. like English would in this case).

 

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Zbigniew
1 hour ago, stapler said:

The subject is China. Because they've already mentioned "China" so many times, it would be stylistically ugly to use it again here. Furthermore, the subject here should be considered vague and flexible. It could be "we", "the government" or "China". And these are all the same in the collective thinking.

Thanks for your answer.

 

So are you saying the understood subject of 使 is definitely something like "we", "the government" or "China" and not the cumulative effect of the actions described in the preceding clauses, i.e. "[these aforesaid things] make them able to..."? Or perhaps the sense is ["and through these measures] China makes them...". The use of 他们 as object to 使, rather than something like 全国人民,seems to reinforce the view that the clause beginning 使 is not, in one or other of the ways I've shown, in true parallel with the rest. 

 

Also, are you sure 针对 is the main verb in its clause? The native speaker I'm speaking to understands 发力 (qualified by 精准) to be the main verb governing that clause, and 针对 to be in effect a participle or prepositional phrase.

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stapler

It could not only just be "we" "china", it could also be, as you said, the result of all the actions. The thing is is that this distinction isn't important in this context. The precise subject isn't considered important because it's the result that is important. Hence the subject is "vague". To write it English, it could be read as "China will help them improve at the same speed and enjoy the fruits of reform", "As a result of implementing these things it will help them", "As a result of China implementing these things", etc.

 

Depending on your interpretation it could be parallel.

 

Yes 发力 is the main verb. But the point is each clause has the same implied subject. To write it in English "(we) must implement these policies, (we) must use our energy to solve these problems, (and this will allow them to OR we must make them)  develop at the same speed".

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Zbigniew
4 minutes ago, stapler said:

 "As a result of China implementing these things", etc.

It's interesting you put it that way, because that's very close to how the native speaker I'm speaking to explained the relationship of the clause beginning 使 to what goes before.

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stapler

I forgot to say, all above comments are just IMHO. I'm sure others may have differing opinions. Hopefully some more advanced learners can correct me.

 

Also, I agree with 889 " you need to keep more an eye on the logical meaning of the text than on grammatical parsing". Unless of course you're actually more interested in the grammatical parsing rather than merely comprehending the meaning.

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Daniel Tsui44
7 hours ago, Zbigniew said:

中国还通过制定专项规划落实少数民族、妇女、儿童、老年人、残疾人等群体的发展权。中国发布了少数民族事业发展规划、中国妇女发展纲要、中国儿童发展纲要、老龄事业发展规划和残疾人事业发展纲要等,明确发展目标,采取积极策略措施,针对不同群体发展的重点难点问题,精准发力,使他们能够同步发展,共享改革发展成果。

 

中国(subject)还通过制定专项规划落实(predicate verb)少数民族、妇女、儿童、老年人、残疾人等群体的发展权

中国(subject) 发布了(predicate verb)少数民族事业发展规划、中国妇女发展纲要、中国儿童发展纲要、老龄事业发展规划和残疾人事业发展纲要等,

明确(predicate verb)发展目标

采取(predicate verb)积极策略措施

针对不同群体发展的重点难点问题(attribute,精准发力(predicate verb)

使(predicate verb) 他们(direct object) 能够同步发展(indirect object)共享改革发展成果(complement)

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