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Chapter 2 Multi-Verb Constructions and FinitenessLinguistics and Literature Studies,7(3):110-115.">

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唐萌萌 1983 年出生于山东省东营市。2005 年本科毕业于中国石油大学(华东)英语系,2007 年硕士毕业于中国石油大学(华东)英语语言文学系,后留校任教。2014 年被遴选为国家留学基金委“国际区域问题与外语高级人才”,赴英国约克大学攻读博士,2018 年获得应用语言学博士学位。现为中国石油大学(北京)外国语学院教师,硕士生导师,国际期刊International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching,Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 审稿人。长期从事应用语言学与认知神经语言学领域的教学和科研工作,先后主持教育部人文社科基金等省部级及校级项目五项。在Neuroscience Letters, International Journal of Bilingualism 等国内外期刊发表论文数十篇,出版著作五部。

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Chapter 2 Multi-Verb Constructions and FinitenessLinguistics and Literature Studies,7(3):110-115.">

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Chapter 2 Multi-Verb Constructions and Finiteness*

Verbs are the core of a sentence. Descriptive linguists and comparative syntacticians have examined the typological differences in Multi-Verb Constructions(MVCs)which comprise several verbs as a reflection of related events. This chapter will present the definition of MVCs,typological differences between Chinese and English MVCs,and the grammatical property “finiteness” in MVCs.

2.1 Multi-Verb Constructions

2.1.1 Definition

A multi-verb construction(MVC)is defined as the juxtaposition of two or more verbs in a monoclausal construction without pauses or conjunctions(Aikhenvald & Muysken,2011). The construction is a prosodically-independent unit,with each verb representing an action,an event phase or a state(e.g.,the boss encourages Jerry to attend the meeting).

MVCs have a broader range than serial-verb constructions according to the definitions of the former(Aikhenvald & Muysken,2011)and the latter(Aikhenvald,2006;Tao,2009),although these two terms are employed interchangeably by certain researchers. A Serial-Verb Construction(SVC)is a string of verbs or verb phrases within a single clause that express simultaneous or immediately consecutive actions(e.g.,Nǐ qù chīfàn,“you go have dinner”). They are often described as coding a single event(A. Aikhenvald,2006),having a single grammatical subject,and having no connective markings,and are marked or understood as having the same grammatical categories,such as aspect,modality,negativity or positivity,and tense(e.g.,you come see me anytime)(Tao,2009).

There are typological differences in the form of MVCs,but they reflect a multidimensional continuum in all languages. Aikhenvald and Muysken(2011)noted that:

[a]n MVC includes serial verbs in their varied guises,predicates with an auxiliary verb or a coverb,and many more kinds. Each of these describes what can be conceptualized as one event. One kind can develop out of another,and each represents a specific way of cognitive packaging of information. The multiplicity of constructions including more than one verb can be presented as a multidimensional continuum,reflecting a minute classification of event types(p. vii).

For example,in typologically-distant languages,like English and Chinese,MVCs comprise different forms and features. In English,multiple verbs appear in the form of finite and non-finite verbs,with a clear morphological distinction between the two. Non-finite verbs are dependent on finite verbs,and each clause should contain only one finite verb in a clause. In contrast,as a language which lacks inflection and grammaticalized tense,Chinese multiple verbs either take the form of bare verbs,or have verbs with aspectual adverbs or morphemes indicating their aspectual information. Time characteristics and internal relations are not realized morphologically. In the following section,details about English and Chinese MVCs will be provided.

2.1.2 MVCs in English

“Multi-verb constructions often consist of a main,inflected verb,and another verb marked as dependent on it. The form may vary,and so does terminology:“in some traditions,the dependent form is called ‘infinitive’,in others ‘participle’ and in others ‘gerund’,or ‘coverb’”(Aikhenvald & Muysken,2011,p. 12). In English,non-finite verbs([-F] verbs)are neither inflected by grammatical tense nor undergo subject-verb agreement. Finite verbs([+F] verbs)are in the position of predicates as matrix verbs,with non-finite verbs occupying other positions in the sentence,such as subject,object,object complement and adverbial. Examples are provided in Table 1.

Table 1 Syntactic Positions of Non-finite Verbs and Examples in English MVCs

In general,finite verbs have a compulsory tense and aspect,and non-finite verbs are not restricted by the number and person of the subject,are not used to express an event time independently,and are applicable in any position within a sentence,except for the predicate.

2.1.3 MVCs in Chinese

Li and Thompson(1981)defined MVCs in Chinese as “a sentence that contains two or more verb phrases or clauses juxtaposed without any marker indicating what the relationship is between them”(p. 594). Chinese verbs do not have morphological inflections related to the person,gender,number,time,and can function as the subject,object,and complement in a sentence. Due to the lack of morphological distinctions among the juxtaposed verbs,the way in which the relations among the verbs are interpreted depends on the semantics of the verbs. Li and Thompson(1981)ranked all Chinese sentence patterns in(NP)V(NP)(NP)V(NP)[] as MVCs. Four types of MVCs are introduced in Table 2.

Table 2 Four Types of Chinese MVCs with Examples

A pivotal sentence can be defined as follows:“of the two predicates in a sentence,the object of the first predicate(verb)is at the same time the subject of the second one”(D. Li & Cheng,2008,p.485). Two pieces of information arise from this definition:the two verbs are all regarded as predicates,and the frame of the structure is that a noun “pivot” connects V1(verb one)and V2(verb two),functioning both as the object of V1 and as the subject of V2. An example of a pivotal sentence is provided in Table 2. There are several sub-types of pivotal sentences from the semantic perspective,such as the pivotal predicate referring to the “purpose and result of the action indicated by the first verb in the sentence” and the first verb “indicating the request,commend and cause”(D. Li & Cheng,2008,p. 487). Other pivotal sentence types include those with the first verb “yǒu”(have)and the pivotal predicate clarifying the state or the action of the pivot,or those with the first verb “shì”(be)and the pivotal predicate explaining the first verb(D. Li & Cheng,2008). Even though the specific classification of pivotal sentences according to the semantics of the V1 and V2 varies(e.g.,An & Liu,2004;Xing,2004),it is widely accepted that the pivotal predicate indicating the purpose or result of the action expressed by the first verb is the prototypical pivotal sentence. The present study will only involve prototypical pivotal sentences.

As mentioned by Li and Thompson(1981),the case where two or more separate events in certain relations are juxtaposed together as a continuum is the typical and most common multi-verb construction. The two events appear to be separate but indeed are understood as being related to each other either as one consecutive event,the purpose,the alternation or the circumstance of another event(Li &Thompson,1981). Tao(2009)calls these two events a compound predicate with a single grammatical subject,having no connective markings,and are marked or understood as sharing the same grammatical features,such as aspect,modality,negativity or positivity,and tense. Since no obligatory syntactic features indicate the specific relations between the two,many of the sentences within this group can be understood in more than one way. For convenience,later in this thesis,sentences with two or more separate events will be labeled “serial-event” sentences. The example of serial-event sentences in Table 2 shows that “go in” can be understood as both the purpose and the consecutive event of “buy a ticket”. Thus,one Chinese serial-event sentence can be ambiguous,conveying the meanings expressed by two different English sentences.

In sum,Chinese MVCs possess the following features:

a. Verbs are not morphologically marked for person,gender,number or time.

b. Verbs can function as subject,object,or compose compound predicates without morphological changes.

c. Sentences with MVCs include those with verbs as subject,direct object,pivotal sentences,and serial-event sentences.

2.1.4 A Typological Comparison

Li and Thompson(1981)state that:

[t]he fascinating thing about these constructions is that although all of them have the same form,namely,represented in(NP)V(NP)(NP)V(NP),with no markers of any kind to signal how the two verb phrases are to be related to each other,speakers interpret them in different ways according to the meanings of their verbs(p. 620).

In contrast to the apparent morphological difference between finite and non-finite verbs in English MVCs,indicating the non-finite verbs’ dependency as well as the finite verbs’ temporal information,multiple verbs in Chinese do not undergo any morphological changes. Given the differences existing at the morphological level between English and Chinese MVCs,a more abstract category of finite and non-finite distinction arises. Two questions follow the typological comparison:

a. Is the contrast between English and Chinese MVCs merely a reflection of the morphological differences,with similar concepts of finiteness?

b. Is the concept of finiteness absent from Chinese?

If the former,the cross-linguistic differences will lie in the surface form-meaning mapping,and the difficulties that learners encounter will be related to how to map the meaning onto the correct forms. However,if Chinese lacks finiteness as a concept,L2 learners will be compelled to construct a concept that does not exist in their L1. To explore whether or not there is the finite and non-finite distinction in Chinese,the definition of finiteness,theories on finite and non-finite distinctions will be introduced in Section 2.2.

2.2 The Distinction Between Finite and Non-finite Verbs

2.2.1 Definition of Finiteness and its Development

According to the online British dictionary,finiteness denotes “any form or occurrence of a verb inflected for grammatical features such as the person,number and tense”(Finiteness,n.d.-a). The free dictionary defines finiteness as “of or relating to any of the forms of a verb that can occur on their own in the main clause and that can formally express distinctions in person,number,tense,mood,and voice,often by means of conjugation,as the verb sees in She sees the sign”(Finiteness,n.d.-b). Moreover,Curme(1931)described it as “to the finite forms of the verb,i.e.,those limited by person,number and mood,are the infinite forms,i.e.,those not thus limited,verbal forms without person,number,and mood”.

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章节目录

  • 2.1 Multi-Verb Constructions
    1. 2.1.1 Definition
    2. 2.1.2 MVCs in English
    3. 2.1.3 MVCs in Chinese
    4. 2.1.4 A Typological Comparison
  • 2.2 The Distinction Between Finite and Non-finite Verbs
    1. 2.2.1 Definition of Finiteness and its Development
    2. 2.2.2 Previous Studies on Chinese Finiteness
      1. 2.2.2.1 Proponents of the Finite vs. Non-finite Distinction in Chinese
      2. 2.2.2.2 Opponents of the Finite vs. Non-finite Distinction in Chinese
    3. 2.2.3 Theories on Semantic Finiteness
      1. 2.2.3.1 Finiteness in Chinese
      2. 2.2.3.3 Semantic Finiteness in Chinese MVCs
  • 2.3 A Comparison of English and Chinese Finite and Non-finite Distinctions in MVCs
    1. 2.3.1 English [-F] as Subject or Object vs. Chinese Verb as Subject or Object
    2. 2.3.2 English [-F] as Object Complement vs. Chinese Pivotal Sentences
    3. 2.3.3 English [-F] as Adverbial vs. Chinese Serial-event Sentences
  • 2.4 Chapter Summary

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