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LEARN CHINESE: CHINESE GRAMMAR

Basic Knowledge on Chinese Grammar

1. Basic Units of Chinese Grammar
Basic units of Chinese are Morpheme, Word, Compound and Sentence.

1). Morpheme - 语素. The smallest meaningful unit of Chinese language. Each morpheme most of time has one syllable, such as '人' and '好', and a few has more syllables, such as '巧克力' and 葡萄'.

2). Word - 词. Word is the smallest unit which can use independently, which is formed of one or more morphemes, such as '大', '沙发', '永远', '图书馆' and '现代化'.

3). Compound - 词组 or 短语. More than one word occur together based on certain rules make compounds, such as '首都北京' and '非常喜欢'.

4). Sentence - 句子. This a unit which can express certain meaning completely. Sentences need to have certain tones, which is shown by full stops, question marks, excalmatory marks etc.

2. Word Type
Based on the grammatical funtions, words can be defined as Full Words (实词) and Empty Words (虚词), concretely they are nouns (名词), verbs (动词), adjectives (形容词), numerals (数词), measure words (量词), pronouns (代词), adverbs (副词), particle (助词), prepositions (介词), onomatopoeia words (象声词), conjunctions (连词) and exclamation (叹词).

3. Word Structure
One-morpheme words are called Simplex Words (单纯词), which basically have two different types: monosyllabic (单音节的) and polysyllabic (多音节的). Those polysyllabic words have the following different structures: double-initial-consonant words (双声词), double-final-sound words (叠韵词), reduplications (叠音词) and transliterations (音译外来词).

Words, which are formed of more than one morphemes, are called Composite Words (合成词), can be divided into the following different structures based on the relationship between their morphemes: coordination (联合型 or 并列式), modification (偏正型), complement (补充型), verb-object (动宾型), subject-predication (主谓型), affixed (附加式) and reduplication (重叠式).

4. Constituent Structure of Sentences
Subject (主语), predicate (谓语), object (宾语), attribute (定语), adverbial modifier (状语) and complement (补语).

5. Sentence Type
Based on its mood, a sentence can be a declarative sentence (陈述句), an interrogative sentence (疑问句), an imperative sentence (祈使句) or an interjectional sentence (感叹句).

Based on its structure, a sentence can be named as a simple sentence (单句) or a complex sentence (复句). A simple sentence can be a predication sentence (主谓句) or a non-predication sentence (非主谓句).

6. the Characteristics of Modern Chinese Grammar

1). the lack of morphological changes.
Quite differenct from English language, the morphological change does not happen as a common phenomenon.

a. Generally, a reduplicated word form of a verb is ABAB, such as 打扫打扫 and 商量商量; a reduplicated word form of an adjective is AABB, such as 漂漂亮亮 and 干干净净, but a few adjectives can be reduplicated in ABAB, like 雪白雪白 or 通红通红. Also, not all verbs or adjectives have rejuplication forms, we can not say '担心担心' or '美美丽丽'.

b. Most plural nouns in English end in s, while in Chinese, we use '们', but this character can not be used commonly either. We say '他们' and '人们', but we do not say '书们'. We also say '工人们' but in this sentence '他们是工人', we do not say '他们是工人们.'

c. Contrary to English, Chinese verbs do not change based on tense or gender, number, case, or person of the suject. Pronouns do not have morpphological changes no matter they as used in the nominative, accusative or possessive case.

2). the Importance of Words Order and Usage of Function Words (Empty Words)

a. The change of words order changes the meaning of the sentence or phrase.
eg. 我喜欢她. (I like her.) --- > 她喜欢我. (She likes me).
eg. 不很快 ( Not very fast) ----> 很不快 (very slow)

b. The meaning changes with/without function words or with different function words.
eg. 读书 (read book) ---> 读的书 (the book which is read) the emphasis of the phrase changes from the action 'read' to the subjection of the action 'the book' after the word '的' is added in the phrase.
eg. 我把他打败了(I beat him). ---> 我被他打败了(I am beaten by him).

 

 

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