The Encoding of Motion Events in Mandarin Chinese

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


Dinner will be provided. RSVP to Aragorn Quinn: by Saturday, January 29

Although movement in space is one of the most basic human activities, the linguistic encoding of motion events in individual languages is not necessarily the same. Mandarin Chinese (hereafter "Chinese") is a serial-verb language, which differs from some other languages in that it allows two or more verbs to occur together in one construction. Motion events in Chinese are commonly expressed through constructions consisting of multiple motion morphemes, e.g., hui 'return' and dao 'arrive' in huidao Beijing 'return to Beijing'. However, the ordering of these morphemes in a motion construction seems to be unpredictable. For example, in hui dao Beijing 'return arrive Beijing', hui 'return' must precede dao 'arrive', but in tui hui Beijing 'recede return Beijing', hui 'return' must follow tui 'recede'. This project explores the question of what determines the ordering of motion morphemes in a Chinese multi-morpheme motion construction.

This talk proposes that Chinese motion morphemes can be classified into four major types in light of recent research on "scale structure". The notion "scale" in a motion event can be understood as a path with a direction from the starting point of motion toward or to the destination. Different motion morphemes may specify different types of paths, and some morphemes do not specify any kind of path at all. For instance, tui 'recede' specifies a path without an endpoint, whereas hui 'return' specifies a path with an endpoint, so only tui allows a comparative complement with respect to space ( tui/*hui de geng yuan 'recede/*returned further'). The four types of morphemes form a hierarchy that predicts their order in a multi-morpheme motion construction. Two corpus studies were carried out to verity this hierarchy. The results demonstrate that the hierarchy holds for a comprehensive range of existing motion constructions in Chinese.

Monday, January 31, 2011 | 4:30 pm — 6:30 pm
Building 250 - Room 101, EALC Library

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures