Revisit adjective distribution in Chinese

Wenchao LI


This study re-classifies Chinese monosyllabic adjectives and verbs in light of ‘scale structure’. It examines how various adjectives are associated with different scalar layers of verbs. The investigation focuses upon direct perception expressions and resultatives. The finding reveals that the closed-scale perceptual verb jiàn ‘see’ does not tolerate open-scale APs. This is because, (a) syntactically, Chinese perception verb complements do not represent a result state as the AP-complement is encoded into the perception verb root; (b) semantically, jiàn ‘see’ not only represent an accomplishment predication but contributes to a potential indirect perception, describing the observer’s evaluation of the perceived event.kàn ‘look’ is open-scale and is likely to render a direct perception report. The degree of kàn’s associations with different APs runs from ‘Totally open-scale AP’, down to ‘Upper closed-scale AP’, ‘Lower closed-scale AP’, ‘Totally closed-scale AP’. Resultatives seem to welcome all layers of adjectives. Various APs may match with a transitive verb, an unergative verb, a light verb or an unaccusative verb. This is down to the fact that, resultative complements are framed outside the verb roots and thus, do not receive restriction from the verb. 


scale structure; adjective distribution; Chinese

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