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Title: Adverbial clauses in Mandarin Chinese: a corpus-based study
Authors: Wong, May Lai-Yin
Keywords: Sino-Tibetan Languages
Chinese Language
Mandarin - Grammar
Adverbiale Clause
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: Lancaster University
Abstract: This thesis is a corpus-based study of adverbial clauses in Mandarin Chinese. Adverbial clauses are optional subordinate clauses modifying a main clause. The corpora used in this thesis are the PFR Chinese Corpus, the Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese (LCMC) and the CALLHOME Mandarin Chinese Transcripts Corpus. A manually-parsed sample skeleton treebank, containing some 100,000 word tokens was built to enable the exploration of adverbial clauses. It shows that Chinese adverbial clauses (CACs) are overtly marked by a subordinating conjunction. On the basis of 57 adverbial subordinators as used in the PFR corpus (a homogeneous corpus of journalistic texts), I adopt a problem-oriented tagging approach and identify 2,417 adverbial clauses in the corpus. Eleven semantically based classes are defined, namely, clauses of condition, concession, purpose, cause/reason, contrast, result, exception, addition, inference, preference and time. The non-overt subjects (PRO) in CACs prove to be constrained by the PRO theorem of Government and Binding Theory in that they occur only in ungoverned positions and are thus properly licensed. The distribution of PROs varies significantly across the semantic domains of adverbial clauses: overt subjects are commonly used in concessive and causal clauses, while non-overt subjects are predominant in clauses of condition and are slightly less frequently used in clauses of purpose, contrast and result. The other semantic types of adverbial clause do not show a significant difference in their use of overt and non-overt subjects. The distribution of PROs is explained in terms of information structure in that the management of given/new information acts as a constraint for the selection of subject type in CACs. Results obtained from the LCMC corpus (a balanced corpus with fifteen distinct text types) indicate that conditional and concessive clauses are not a marked feature of journalistic writing. The distribution of subjects varies across adverbial semantic domains but it does not vary within certain text types of the corpus. The effect of semantic domain on the distribution of subjects, however, depends on text type. In contrasting the distribution of adverbial clauses and their subjects in CALLHOME (a corpus of telephone conversations) and that in the LCMC, it is shown that there is a relatively low frequency of purpose, result and contrast clauses in both conversation and narrative texts, and clauses of reason and exception strongly favour overt subjects in both spoken and written Chinese. However, clauses of concession in spoken Chinese do not show such a marked preference for a particular kind of subject, indicating an important difference in spoken and written registers' use of adverbial clauses.
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