On Perfective –le in Mandarin Chinese: Theoretical and Pedagogical Issues

Keywords: Chinese perfective -le, tense and aspect, temporal intervals, Chinese language pedagogy

Abstract

Although Mandarin Chinese perfective -‍le has been extensively studied in the literature, views on its linguistic properties nevertheless remain controversial. In this study, I first discuss the temporal function of perfective -‍le and provide an alternative account. In the spirit of Klein’s (1994) approach regarding different temporal intervals, I demonstrate that the core function of this suffix is to indicate that one event occurs after another. I then address the issue of the English translation of perfective -‍le in a Chinese as a foreign or second language class and argue that English present perfect construction may not represent the translation correctly. The proposal not only gives a more straightforward definition of the perfective -‍le, but also provides a simpler way for the instruction of the suffix.

Author Biography

I-hao WOO, University of Colorado Denver

Department of Modern Languages

Assistant Professor of Chinese

References

Arche, M. (2014). The construction of viewpoint aspect: the imperfective revisited. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 32, 791-831.

Chao, Y. R. (1968). A grammar of modern spoken Chinese. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press.

Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review. 57 (3), 402-423.

Comrie, B. (1976). Aspect: An introduction to the study of verbal aspect and related problems. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Demirdache, H., & Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2000). The primitives of temporal relations. In R. Martin, D. Michaels & J. Uriagereka (Eds.), Step by step: Essays on minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik (pp. 157-186). Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Demirdache, H., & Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2004). Syntax of time adverbs. In J. Gueron. & J. Lecarme. The syntax of time. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Demirdache, H., & M. Uribe-Etxebarria (2007). The syntax of time arguments. Lingua, 117, 330-366.

Demirdache, H., & Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2014). Aspect and temporal anaphora. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 32, 855-895.

Duff, P., & Li, D. (2002). The acquisition and use of perfective aspect in Mandarin. In R. Salaberry & Y. Shirai (Eds.), The L2 acquisition of tense-aspect morphology (pp. 417-453). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Giorgi, A. & Pianesi, F. (1998). Tense and Aspect: From Semantics to Morphosyntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Huang, J., Li, D., & Li, A. (2009). The syntax of Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ke, C. (2005). Acquisition patterns of Chinese linguistics features for CFL learners. Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association 40(1), 1-24.

Klein, W. (1994). Time in language. London: Routledge.

Li, C., & Thompson, S. (1981). Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Lin, J.-W. (2003). Temporal reference in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 12, 259-311.

Ljungqvist, M. (2007). Le, guo and zhe in Mandarin Chinese: a relevance-theoretic account. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 16(3), 193-235.

Portner, P. (2003). The (temporal) semantics and (modal) pragmatics of the perfect. Linguistics and Philosophy, 26, 495-510.

Petrovčič, M. (2009). Operator LE in Chinese. Complexity within simplicity and simplicity within complexity. VDM Verlag.

Shi, Z. Q. (1990). Decomposition of perfectivity and inchoativity and the meaning of the particle LE in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Chinese linguistics, 18(1), 95-123.

Smith, C. S. (1997). The parameter of aspect. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Soh, H. L., & Gao, M. J. (2007). It's Over: Verbal-le in Mandarin Chinese. In A. Hedberg, R. Zacharski & G. K. Gundel (Eds.), The grammar-pragmatics interface (pp. 91-109). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Stowell, T. (1996). The phrase-structure of tense. In J. Roorych & L. Zaring (Eds.), Phrase structure and the lexicon (studies in natural language and linguistic theory) (pp. 277-291). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Stowell, T. (2007). The syntactic expression of tense. Lingua, 117(2), 437-463.

Sybesma, R. (1999). The Mandarin VP. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Teng, S. (1999). The acquisition of “le” in L2 Chinese. World Chinese Teaching and Learning (originally in Chinese), 47, 56-64.

Travis, L. (2005). Articulated vPs and the computation of aspectual classes. In P. Kenpchinsky, & R. Slabakova (Eds.), Aspectual inquiries (pp. 69-94). Dordrecht: Springer.

Travis, L. (2010). Inner aspect: The articulation of VP. Dordrecht: Springer.

Vendler, Z. (1967). Linguistics in Philosophy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Wells, G. (1999). Using L1 to master l2: a response to Antón and DiCamilla‘s Socio Cognitive Functions of L1 Collaborative Interaction in the L2 Classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 83(2), 248-254.

Wen, X. (1997). Acquisition of Chinese aspect: An analysis of the Interlanguage of Learners of Chinese as a Foreign Language. ITL, Review of Applied Linguistics, Dec, 1-26.

Wu, Z. (2004). A minimalist approach to the re-grammaticalization of morphology. In P. Pica (Ed.), Linguistic variation yearbook 4 (pp. 261-297). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Published
2018-07-20
How to Cite
WOO, I.- hao. (2018). On Perfective –le in Mandarin Chinese: Theoretical and Pedagogical Issues. Acta Linguistica Asiatica, 8(2), 139-158. https://doi.org/10.4312/ala.8.2.139-158
Section
Research Articles