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Academic Paper

Title: Change of state verbs and result state adjectives in Mandarin Chinese
Author: Shiao Wei Tham
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Defense Language Institute
Linguistic Field: Morphology; Pragmatics; Syntax
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Abstract: This paper investigates the derivational relationship between adjectives and verbs in Mandarin Chinese describing related state, change of state (COS) and caused COS meanings. Such paradigms have been observed in various languages to fall into two categories: One in which a word naming a property concept state constitutes the derivational base for the related COS verbs, and another in which a COS verb forms the basis from which the stative word – a ‘result state’ predicate – is derived. I show that in Mandarin, the distinction between morphological paradigms based on property-concept words versus eventive verbs is also found, but the actual derivational relations between verbs and adjectives are influenced by language-particular morphological properties of Mandarin. Specifically, I argue that a gradable property concept adjective systematically alternates to a related COS verb. This alternation, which can be tapped by degree modification and negation contexts, distinguishes adjectives from stative verbs, which do not have consistent COS counterparts, and from underived intransitive COS verbs, which do not have systematic stative counterparts. That is, I show that COS verbs do not lend themselves to the systematic derivation of result state adjectives. Rather, I argue that result state adjectives in Mandarin arise from conceptual-pragmatic factors: The nominal modified by such a result state adjective should be understood as describing a culturally or contextually salient class of entities.


This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 49, Issue 3.

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