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


On the Relationship Between Word-Syntax and Sentence -Syntax: A Contrastive Analysis of Compound Vers in Chinese, English and Japanese

Vol. 19 No. 1   6/1989    


On the Relationship Between Word-Syntax and Sentence -Syntax: A Contrastive Analysis of Compound Vers in Chinese, English and Japansese


Ting-Chi Charles Tang









Key words



The present paper investigates the relationship between word-syntax and sentences-yntaxthrough a contrastive analysis of compound verbs among three typologically aswell as genetically different languages: Chinese, English and Japanese. Afterpresenting a rather detailed description of compound verbs in these three languageswith regard to their internal structure (including the linear order, dominance relation,grammatical structure and categorical distribution of constituent stems, and if composed of verb stems and noun stems, argument structure and thematic relation as well), productivity, potential for conversion from and to other categories, an attempt is made to define and explain the syntax and semantics of compound verbs in terms of the principles-and-parameters approach. Based on our description and analysis, it is claimed that there is no clear-cut borderline between word-syntax and sentence-syntax, or, more specifically, that sentence-syntactic rules and principles extend to apply in the domain of word-syntax in all unmarked cases. Thus the analogous relation between syntactic constructions and formation of compounds in Chinese, as pointed

out by Chao (1968: 194) and many other scholars, is a general rule in natural languages rather than an exception. It is also suggested that an even stronger claim can be made the word-syntax and the sentence-syntax are in fact one and the same (or, more specifically, the former is a proper subset of the latter), since most of the seeming discrepancies between the two can be adequately accounted for by independently motivated principles and parameters. Our conclusion not only renders support to the modular theory of the universal grammar but also provides a partial answer to Plato’s problem in accounting for why children acquire (and even invent)compounds in such an efficient and uniform way.



Author: Ting-chi Charles Tang
Genre: Article
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