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dxcarnadi

Chinese Word Order .. without connective words.

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dxcarnadi

Hello

 

In an English-Chinese dictionary (written by a mainland-born Chinese) .. I read this entry:

absorb
be ~ed by 被……所吸收:
All human beings need insulin to break down food into a form that can be absorbed by the body.
所有人都需要胰岛素将食物分解为能被身体吸收的形式。

 

I read once the English sentence ... and I understand.
GWO (grammar word order).. and .. right branching.

 

I read the Chinese sentence .. many times .. and I still don't understand.
PWO (pragmatic word order) & left branching!? What's that? .. 😉

Can someone help me to segment the Chinese sentence into smaller phrases & clauses?
..and.. some explanation.
Thank you.

 

BTW .. I know that:
"The Chinese language is drastically different from English not only in phonological and morphological terms, but also in terms of sentence structure....... bla bla bla.
What’s more, OMISSION OF PREPOSITIONS AND CONNECTIVE WORDS is also natural.
These peculiarities may make the relations between words, phrases and sentences appear rather blurred to Indo-European language natives."                             
.. and I'm a German ... 😞

 

BTW ... if the English sentence would be:
"All human being need insulin || break down food || form || can absorb | body."
I will not understand it ... i.e .. the prepositions and connective words are important .. for me.

 

How can I practice to overcome this "difficulty" of Chinese language?
Thank you.

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Zbigniew

As literally as is feasible, here is the way I would explain it:

 

"What there are people all need insulin (object fronting particle) food break down become can by body absorbed form."

i.e.:

What there are (所有) people (人) all (都) need (需要) insulin (胰岛素) (object fronting particle 将) food (食物) break down (分解) become (为) can (能) by (被) body (身体) absorb(ed) (吸收) form (的形式).

 

 

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歐博思

Actually there are a couple words which convey word relationships in the Chinese sentence above.

 

First is 将, which explicitly states the object having work done on. In this case it's 食物.

Second is 为, which is sort of an equal sign. "Break down" (becomes/into/=) "form that can be absorbed by the body".

Thirdly is 被, a common way to express passive sentences in Chinese.

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歐博思

Are you a scientist Jim?

 

Because your way of analysis instantly time-traveled me back to Shurley Method analysis we did in grade school.

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Jim

Far too dim for that! I must have lucked into it.

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Beelzebro

I don't think OP is asking for a breakdown of the sentence, he's asking this:

 

Quote

BTW ... if the English sentence would be:
"All human being need insulin || break down food || form || can absorb | body."
I will not understand it ... i.e .. the prepositions and connective words are important .. for me.

How can I practice to overcome this "difficulty" of Chinese language?

 

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dxcarnadi

Hello

Without knowing/seeing it .. there are 3 functional words .. = 3 coverbs .. = 3 grammatical markers in the Chinese sentence.
That is indeed .. Chinese word-order & functional words ... instead of "Chomsky's grammar".
Thank you for your breakdowns & explanations.

 

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dwq

I have to admit, when I first read the sentence I read it as...

 

  所有人都需要 [blah blah blah] 形式

 

and got really confused.

 

Perhaps that got into the way of your grammar analysis as well?

 

A comma after 胰岛素 would help I think?

 

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Lu
On 6/10/2018 at 7:21 PM, dxcarnadi said:

How can I practice to overcome this "difficulty" of Chinese language?

First, make sure you know (or have looked up) all the words in the sentence.

Then, what works for me is to look for the grammatical particles. They usually mark of sections of the sentence, and breaking it down helps to understand it. You can then look for parts that go together, according to patterns: 因为...所以, 虽然... 但是 etc. If there are no patterns, that is also useful information.

Once you have all this worked out, you should be able to piece together the entire meaning.

If you need a readable translation, you can first write down the literal translation, sentence part by sentence part, in the Chinese order (a bit like Zbigniew does above). After that, sit back and squint a bit and then rewrite the whole thing so that the meaning is expressed in a logical, grammatical, fluent sentence in your target language. Often, you will need to break it up into several sentences to do this, although in this case that doesn't seem to be necessary. Chinese is a lot more tolerant than many other languages in just comma-ing on and on.

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陳德聰
On 6/10/2018 at 10:21 AM, dxcarnadi said:

人都需要胰岛素将食物分解为能被身体吸收的形

 

I mean... It’s not pretty, but it is possible to cram this into Chomskyan grammar. It requires some knowledge of the phrase boundaries and scope though I think.

 

所有人都 [ 需要胰島素 [ (in order for them to) 將食物 [ 分解為 [ [ 能被身體吸收的 ] 形式 ] ] ] ]

 

I actually find that modern Chinese uses pretty discrete markers for some of its more “complicated” phrasal structures.

 

需要 { DP(胰島素), CP(PRO將食物分解為能被身體吸收的形式) }

 

將 { DP extracted from lower VP1(食物), VP1(分解為能被身體吸收的形式)}

 

分解 { DP that gets extracted(食物) , second DP marked by 為(能被身體吸收的形式) }

 

的 { CP in SPEC(能被身體吸收), DP that is the ghost object in VP2 that became the subject of its passive version and then moved over here!?(形式) }

 

能 { FP?/VP(被身體吸收) }

 

被 { DP that is the subject in VP2(身體) , VP2(吸收) }

 

I am out of practice and I also don’t know how people are referring to words like 將 and 被 these days but I have seen them described as being in SPEC of their respective functional projections before. I don’t have insight into what type of theoretical implications that might have cross-linguistically but I don’t think they really evade being represented in eurocentric syntax.

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Publius

It's really quite simple.

Those little function words are as important in Chinese as they are in English.

And there are only 5 basic types of word order in Chinese. They are present at all levels (morpheme > word > phrase > sentence).

1) 聯合 parallelism. Shouldn't need more explanation. Only thing noticeable is juxtaposition of parallel structures is more rampant in Chinese. A classic example is 好好學習,天天向上. And as a matter of fact, many modern Chinese words are formed by juxtaposing synonymous or near-synonymous syllables, e.g. 需要, 身體, 分解, 吸收, 形式. This is how the language evolved from largely monosyllabic to predominantly disyllabic.

2) 偏正 modifier-modified. The implication is that all modifiers must precede the modified. In other words, it's head-final. This includes relative clause (能被身體吸收 plus 的 denoting the end of the clause, 'that can by absorbed by the body') + head noun (形式 'a form') and adverbial phrase (被 signifying passive by marking the agent 身體, 'by the body') + head verb (吸收 'absorb'). So the whole noun phrase is literally 'can-by-body-absorb-DE form'.

3) 主謂 subject-predicate. Nothing unusual here. Subject (所有人 'All human beings') + predicate (都需要胰島素 'all need insulin'). But Chinese being a topic-prominent language, the first position in a sentence is not always occupied by the subject, in which case, the word order really should be described as topic-comment, for example, 胰島素(topic)所有人都需要(comment). In a sense, subject-predicate is a special case of topic-comment where the topic happens to be the subject.

4) 動賓 verb-object. Verb (需要 'need') + object (胰岛素 'insulin').

5) 動補 verb-complement. Verb (分解 'break down') + complement (爲 'to become' 某種形式 'some form').

The only thing stands out here is the 將食物 part. As I have mentioned in another thread, the modern language generally avoids the 'verb + object + complement' structure (as you may have noticed, it's not one of the 5 basic patterns). Instead, it uses the so-called 把 structure (將 is but a more formal version) to extract the object and place it in front of the verb, so the whole thing looks like a 偏正 adverbial + verbal (which itself is 動補 verb + complement) structure. Admittedly this is really hard for a foreign learner to grasp, but from a Chinese point of view, it's nothing special. Consider the following phrases:

在飯館吃飯 -- '在' marks the location

用筷子夾菜 -- '用' marks the instrument

把筷子折斷 -- '把' marks the patient

被老婆臭罵 -- '被' marks the agent

These are all parameters of an action. Different function, same structure. If the performer of an action can precede the verb, so can the recipient.

Another minor irregularity is the omission of 來 to indicate purpose in 需要胰島素(來)將食物分解爲……

Hope this helps.

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dxcarnadi

Hello

Thank you all for your inputs.

 

I'm looking for a (relative new) Chinese grammar book with a similar content as .. see attachment.
It's a page of the 40 year old "Helen Lin -1981 Essential Grammar for Modern Chinese from Cheng & Tsui Co.".
It has no update.

When I see the books's contents of Yip, Claudia Ross etc .. I have the impression/feeling that I must learn physics ONLY from examples & verbal explanation ... without equation/formula .. without pattern.

Can you help me?
Thank you.

 

Helen Lin -1981 Essential Grammar for Modern Chinese_p183.pdf

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