Motion Verbs and Motion Constructions in Mandarin Chinese: Their Scale Structures

Jingxia Lin, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures,Stanford University

NOTE THIS TALK WILL BE IN CHINESE. Motion verbs in Modern Mandarin Chinese (“Chinese”) are usually classified into manner of motion verbs and path verbs (Talmy 2000, among others). However, the diverse distributions of motion verbs, including some verbs’ inconsistent behaviors with respect to the traditional Dowty (1979)/Vendler (1957) aspectual classification, is still left unexplained. Furthermore, such a classification results in a coarse understanding of Chinese multi-morphemic motion construction (“MMMC”) as a (sub)type of resultative verbal compound (“RVC”). In this project, I provide a fuller account of Chinese motion verbs by investigating their lexical semantics in light of recent work on “scale structure” (Rappaport Hovav and Levin 2010, among others). A scale lexicalized in a motion verb measures the progress of a motion event based on the position of a moving object on the path with respect to a reference object. Instead of Talmy’s two-way classification of motion verbs ---manner of motion verbs (no scale structure) and path verbs (with scale structure), I have found that the Chinese path verbs can be further categorized into three types based on the verbs’ scale structure. For instance, tui ‘recede’ specifies an unbounded scale, whereas hui ‘return’ specifies a bounded scale, so only tui allows a comparative complement with respect to space (tui/*hui de geng yuan ‘recede/*returned further’). In addition, I hypothesized a hierarchy of motion verbs based on their scale structures that can predict the verbs’ distribution in a MMMC (e.g., tui hui Beijing, *hui tui Beijing). This hypothesis was verified in two corpus studies. The corpus studies also demonstrated that the proposed hierarchy is not only able to account for Chinese MMMCs, but also RVCs.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 | 5:15 pm — 6:30 pm
Building 250 - Room 108, Main Quad

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures