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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Comparison in Chinese: A Topic-Comment Approach

Vol. 19 No. 1   6/1989    


Comparison in Chinese: A Topic-Comment Approach


Feng-Fu Tsao









Key words



    This study starts out by examining Li and Thompson’s (1981) analysis of the comparative construction in Mandarin Chinese. Although their analysis is found to be quite illuminating in some respects, it is felt to be inadequate in a number of others. To take care of these inadequacies a new approach, which treats the compared constituents as topics, either primary or non-primary, is proposed and three important arguments are presented in support of this proposal. A constraint that the compared constituents must be topics of an equal rank, i.e., both must be primary, secondary or tertiary etc. is then formulated. 

    Four important principles of deletion, namely, Compared Constituent Deletion, Present-time Deletion, The Second Compared Constituent Genitive Deletion and Identical Elements in a Compared Constituent Deletion, which jointly account for the elliptical phenomena in the comparative structure are proposed and discussed. Consequently, sentences like the following: 

    Ta bi tzuotian shufu 

    he compare yesterday comfortable 

    ‘He is better today than (he was) yesterday’

    which Li and Thompson can only explain with recourse to pragmatic inference, are seen as a natural result of the interaction of the first two principles. Finally, a possible universal parameter in terms of topical comparison as in Chinese, Japanese and Korean versus sentential comparison as in English and other European languages is proposed to account for syntactic differences between these two types of languages in comparison. 


John W. Chaffe: The Thorny Gates of Learning in Sung China: A Social History of Examinations; Richard L. Davis. Durham: Court and Family in Sung China, 960-1279: Bureaucratic Success and Kinship Fortunes for the Shih of Ming-Chou; Patricia B. Ebrey: Family and Property in Sung China: Yuan Ts’ai’s Precepts for Social Life 

Huang-Chi Li 


Guide to Style 





Author: Feng-fu Tsao
Genre: Article
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