S-Space Language Education Institute (언어교육원) Language Research (어학연구) Language Research (어학연구) Volume 48 Number 1/3 (2012)
Indefinite Quantification of Nouns Having a Unique Reference (Evidence from Vernacular Chinese)
- Iljic, Robert
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 언어교육원
- 어학연구, Vol.48 No.3, pp. 631-663
- This article focuses on nouns referring to previously identified entities and yet preceded by an indefinite quantifier. Particular attention is given to the fact that such quantification produces modal effects, an aspect of the problem conspicuously neglected by our predecessors. The intransitive bă construction in Chinese serves as an illustration of this phenomenon. In Mandarin Chinese the so-called pretransitive construction consists in the placement of the direct object before the verb by means of the preposition bă. However, bă does sometimes occur in sentences with intransitive verbs. Moreover, the bă noun phrase, which normally should be definite, is in this case usually preceded by the classifier ge, representing a counting unit and associated with indefinite reference. This type of sentence, which can be traced back to vernacular báihuà texts, is still in use, although comparatively rare. The present study demonstrates that in such a configuration, as in all pretransitive constructions, bă marks the patient, even if the latter is the subject of an intransitive verb. Furthermore a certain agentivity is bestowed upon the noun in topic position (before bă), which may boil down to a mere desire to avert an (unpleasant) event, such as the death of a close relative. Finally, the purpose of putting ge in front of a proper or a uniquely determined common noun is not to count, that is, express quantity, but rather to place accent on quality. By referring to an individual occurrence as a member of the notional class denoted by the noun, one highlights the property which defines its elements : for instance, the father insofar as he is a father. Hence the special modal flavor attached to this structure.