Nounphrase und Chinese

Term Paper, 2006

17 Pages, Grade: 2.7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Data
2.1 English
2.2 German
2.3 French
2.4 Hungarian

3. The Determiner Phrase (DP) and Chinese
3.1 Introduction to the Chinese demonstrative
3.2 The difference between English and Chinese demonstrative
3.3 The forms and interpretations of Chinese noun phrases
3.4 The DP approach to the Chinese nominal
3.4.1 Structure of definite noun phrases
3.4.2 Structure of indefinite noun phrases
3.4.3 Conclusion

4. DP in Code Changes between English and Chinese
4.1 The two constraints in code change
4.2 The DP in code change

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

In grammatical theory, definiteness is a feature of noun phrase, distinguishing between entities which are specific and identifiable in a given context (definite noun phrases) and entities which are not (indefinite noun phrases). In this paper, I will discuss some major characteristics of determiner phrase in natural language, particularly the determiner phrase and Chinese. Under the theory of Cheng & Sybesma (1999), I will interpret DP in Chinese, and in the end of this paper I want to analyze DP in code change between English and Chinese.

2. Data

2.1 English

In English, there are definite and indefinite articles, like definite article ‘the’, infinite article ‘a’ and in front of a vowel ‘an’. Between the determiner/demonstrative and noun there always occur adjectives and numerals. Relative clauses are following the noun. These examples are given in following:

- the pretty angel
- those four hippos
- the article that I received yesterday
- the man who is a professor

2.2 German

In German the article is important in the areas of both syntax and semantics. It is mostly discussed in relation to the DP Hypothesis as in English. der, die, das are definite articles like ‘the’ in English and ein, eine are indefinite articles like ‘a’ and ‘an’ in English. In German you can leave out the indefinite article with professions. This is only exception in German where you can leave out the article. In English you must not leave out the indefinite article. There is no exception to the rule. Here are some examples:

- Hans ist Arzt. / Hans ist ein Arzt.

٭ Hans is doctor. / Hans is a doctor.

There are some differences between German and English in gender, case. For example, in German definite articles and attached nouns can change when they are used in different cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative). This manifests itself in different suffixes. In English the different cases are not achieved by adding suffixes to either article or noun; ‘of’ is a marker for genitive case in English though.

Genitive case:

Das Bein des Stuhles ist blau. /٭ der Stuhl /٭ des Stuhl/٭ der Stuhles

The leg of the chair is blue.

Dative case:

Der Apfel liegt auf dem Stuhl. /٭ der Stuhl /٭ des Stuhl/٭ des Stuhles

The apple lies on the chair.

Accusative case:

Er stellt den Stuhl auf den Tisch. /٭ der Stuhl /٭ des Stuhl/٭ des Stuhles /٭ dem Stuhl

He puts the chair on the table.

In German the article is used in different forms in different situation. In English there is a generic role in how to use the article.

2.3 French

A significant difference between English and French is the distribution of adjectives in noun phrase. French adjectives may follow the noun, as in following example. But such word order is not allowed in English.

- une voiture rouge

٭ a car red

- un pays civilize

٭ a country civilized

Similar to English, relative clauses are following the head noun in French, as shown in example:

I’ home qui est professeur

‘The man who is a professor’

2.4 Hungarian

In Hungarian the use of a determiner is obligatory after a demonstrative used in a DP. This sounds for non-native speakers at a first strange, but it is very common in Hungarian. The construction might be confusing for non-native speakers of Hungarian, since the the demonstrative pronoun used for that is also az. But this az has a different meaning and function.

- az az egér

that the mouse

that mouse

- ez a macska

this the cat

this cat

In such DPs the Demonstrative is in the Spec D position of the Determiner Phrase.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Let me summarize what I have shown in the previous subsections regarding the determiner phrases in English, German, French, and Hungarian. My focus in this section is mainly on the characteristics of determiner phrase in many kinds of natural language. As far as I can see, there is considerable variation in the expression of definiteness across language. But the great majority of languages do not have a definite article. Some examples are Chinese, Japanese, Finnish, and all the Slavic languages expect Bulgarian. When necessary, languages of this kind may indicate definiteness by other means such as demonstratives.

3. The Determiner Phrase (DP) and Chinese

3.1 Introduction to the Chinese demonstrative

Determiners are the morphological reflexes of the functional category D. Chinese have no articles. The only plausible candidate for the functional D is the demonstrative. It is possible that demonstrative can be taken as candidate for the functional determiner phrase. However, there are reasons to believe that the Chinese demonstratives are very different from the English demonstratives.

3.2 The difference between English and Chinese demonstrative

Researcher argues that, in English nothing can appear in the specified position of the projection headed by the.

- the book

٭ John the book

In contrast, the genitive‘s’ allows an element in its specified position, but no more than one element can appear in its specified position:

- John’s lecture

٭ yesterday’s John’s lecture

Demonstratives in English are like function heads in the sense that they close the nominal domain properly. No element can appear to the left of the demonstrative:

- this book
- John’s this book
- that lecture
- yesterday’s that lecture

In Chinese, the demonstrative does not close off the nominal. More than one element can appear to the left of the demonstrative. Thus demonstrative in Chinese is different from a typical determiner element like a or the in English.

- wǒ dē nà běn shū

I MARKER that CL book

‘that book of mine’

- wǒ dē hόng dē nà běn shū

I MARKER red MARKER that CL book

‘that red book of mine’

Since the Chinese demonstrative also does not close off the projection, this lends support to the claim that the demonstrative in Chinese is not a regular determiner element.

3.3 The forms and interpretations of Chinese noun phrases

The ‘strict DP’ is generally assumed to take care of two functions. The one is the deictic function; the other is the subordinator function.


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Nounphrase und Chinese
University of Stuttgart
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Nounphrase, Chinese
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Ping Liu (Author), 2006, Nounphrase und Chinese, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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