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  • 2018Yu2PhD

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Resultative constructions in Mandarin Chinese from the perspective of construction grammar: a cognitive-typological view

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2018
Number of pages297
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis provides a study of resultative constructions in Mandarin Chinese in line with construction grammar from a cognitive-typological perspective. Mainly focusing on the acceptability of Chinese resultatives formed as [subject + verb + (object) + result XP + (aspect marker 了 le)], the research consists of a corpus study and acceptability judgements via questionnaire surveys. As some Chinese resultatives are more acceptable with the 把 ba-construction whereas others are not, the questionnaires also investigate combinations of 把 ba and resultatives.
In the corpus study of Chinese resultatives, data are collected from the Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese (LCMC) based on the result XPs listed in the Online Database on Verb-Resultative Constructions in Contemporary Chinese (ODVRC). A result XP refers to a change of state or location of a referent of an NP caused by an action denoted by the verb, based on which two tests are proposed to identify Chinese resultatives. The tests also distinguish marginal and prototypical resultatives in Chinese. A descriptive analysis of Chinese resultatives is presented in terms of type and token frequency with regard to different classifications, namely subject- versus object-oriented, transitive- versus intransitive-based, and weak versus strong versus spurious. I propose a distinction among agent- versus patient- versus location-oriented resultatives to fully account for the properties of Chinese resultatives. In addition, the results suggest that Chinese belongs to the same type as English, permitting both strong and weak resultatives. This is different from languages which only allow weak ones (e.g. Japanese, French and Italian).
Two questionnaire surveys among Chinese college students are carried out to test the acceptability of subject- and object-oriented resultatives, as well as combinations with the 把 ba-construction. Magnitude estimation is adopted as a judging technique, which can detect subtle but significant differences in acceptability. The results suggest that the acceptability of subject- and object-oriented resultatives depends on whether there could be a postverbal NP in the sentence. The conditions that determine acceptability in the two types vary phonologically, syntactically and semantically.
The acceptability of 把 ba + resultatives forms a continuum, especially for 把 ba + subject-oriented patterns with significant differences. The acceptability of 把 ba + resultative depends on the degree of semantic transitivity expressed by a sentence. Generally, resultatives construed as having a high degree of semantic transitivity are more acceptable with 把 ba. The cognitive explanation I propose is that high transitivity expressed by the sentence is compatible with the function of 把 ba as a marker of the high transitivity. This also sheds light on the discussion of the function of the 把 ba-construction in scholarship for viewing it as a marker of high transitivity rather than expressing disposal or causativity.