"One or Many: Chinese noun and its grammatical Marker 的"

Chaofen Sun, Professor,Stanford University
Meichun Liu, Professor, National Chiao Tung University

Prof. Chaofen Sun will give a talk on "One or Many: Chinese noun and its grammatical Marker 的". Prof. Sun is a professor from the East Asian Languages and Cultures at Stanford. Followed by the talk, Prof. Meichun Liu, a visiting scholar from National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan will give her thoughts relevant to 的 as well. The talks will be primarily given in Chinese.

One or Many: Chinese noun and its grammatical Marker 的

The uncertainties (Zhu 1982, Huang S. 2006, Huang J. 2008) surrounding the conditions governing various uses of the Chinese nominal marker DE 的 have made it very difficult for a Chinese learner to use accurately. However, it is perhaps a most important particle for a learner as it makes up 4 to 5% of the commonly used Chinese at the text-count level. Gained from insights in corpus studies, this study has found that there is a uniqueness condition that prohibits the occurrence of DE inside a proper noun. In light of this constraint, it is also found that although noun phrases such as word-like 我爸爸/phrase-like 我的爸爸 "my father" or 中国银 “Bank of China/中国的银 "Chinese banks" can be used synonymously, they are grammatically distinctive as the former is correlated to one (unique) and the latter to many (or of many). 好友 is used as a word referring to one type of friends, as the phrase-like *好的友 is ungrammatical, but, interestingly, the grammatical use of the phrase-like 很好的友 demonstrates that the use of 的 truly implies that the context in which the phrase-like version occurs must have more than one entity/type, as the degree modifier 很 implies that there must exist more than one. Furthermore, the differences between 别人/别的人 "other people" and *别事/别的事 "other matters" suggest that of all Chinese NPs, there is a continuum ranging from lexical elements such as proper nouns (unique), word-like nouns (one type/entity), phrase-like NPs (many/of many) to the grammatical modifying clauses and nominalization. In the two grammatical categories, DE 的 tends to be obligatory.

More information about this talk and other talks given in our Chinese Linguistics Workshop can be found at


Monday, July 11, 2011 | 1:45 pm — 3:00 pm
Building 250 - Room 108, Main Quad

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures